So, you’ve gotten yourself a flu shot. Good thinking, since this flu season is especially rough. A shot’s not always going to save you–even the best batches are only about 70 percent effective–but there’s a simple way to improve your odds: exercise.
The strength of a flu shot depends on how many antibodies it helps develop, which varies from person to person. But people in one group, the physically fit, generally have a better response to the shots, and thus a reduced chance of catching the bug every winter. Even the elderly, who usually don’t respond very well to inoculation, improved their odds when they exercised more often, the New York Times points out. And a single workout after getting the shot resulted in twice the response from antibodies, according to one study.
How that translates into what an inoculated or to-be-inoculated person should do is a little murkier. If you’re doing aerobic exercise, 90 minutes after the shot seems to be the best amount of time. Another study found that weight-lifting before being vaccinated would help, too, but should be done for about 20 minutes, lifting with the arm that’s getting the shot.
That conflicting advice probably tells you how much we know about the exercise-antibody connection. It’s still early in studies, but some moderate exercise on the day you get your flu shot probably won’t hurt, and could even give you a little help.
Just, you know, go ahead and wash your hands anyway.