How does the immune system work?
A distinction is made between the innate (unspecific) and the acquired (specific) immune system. Both defense systems are closely interlinked and complement each other in every reaction to a pathogen or pollutant.
The innate immune system generally fends off pathogens and is therefore also called the nonspecific immune system. It mainly works with immune cells such as "scavenger cells" or "killer cells". Its main task is to fight harmful substances and harmful germs that enter the body, for example, through the skin or the digestive system.
The acquired (specific) immune defense forms so-called antibodies and uses them specifically against very specific pathogens with which the body has had previous contact. This is why it is also called a "learned" or specific immune response.
The functions of the specific immune system are performed by two cell types:
- B lymphocytes
- T lymphocytes
Because the specific defense system is constantly adapting and learning, the body can also fight bacteria or viruses that change over time.
Current study situation:
The immune system is highly responsive to acute training loads. Since the immune response to exercise depends on intensity and duration of effort, athletes engaging regularly in exhaustive endurance or resistance exercise bouts are at increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections.
Bei Sportlern, die viel und hart trainieren, wird häufig beobachtet, dass sowohl die unspezifische als auch die spezifische Immunität während der Erholungsphase (≥ 90 min) nach längerer Anstrengung vorübergehend abnimmt.
Factors which can lower immunity in the athlete:
- Heavy exercise
- Life stress
- Sleep duration
- Environmental extremes
- Long-haul travel
- Nutritional deficits
Recommendations for training and recovery
- Manage your training load
- Das Volumen und die Intensität nur um 10 % pro Woche erhöhen
- Recovery activities immediately after intensive training
- Increase the frequency of shorter training sessions rather than longer sessions
- Plan a recovery week each third week
- Brandes R, Lang F, Schmidt R (Ed). Physiologie des Menschen: mit Pathophysiologie. Berlin: Springer; 2019.
- Palmowski, J., Boßlau, T. K., Ryl, L., Krüger, K., & Reichel, T. (2019). Managing Immune Health in Sports-A Practical Guide for Athletes and Coaches. German Journal of Sports Medicine 70(10).
- Walsh, N. P. (2018). Recommendations to maintain immune health in athletes. European journal of sport science, 18(6), 820-831.
- Walsh, N. P., Gleeson, M., Pyne, D. B., Nieman, D. C., Dhabhar, F. S., Shephard, R. J., … & Kajeniene, A. (2011). Position statement part two: maintaining immune health.