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Physical exercise, acupuncture and immune function
  1. Ingibjörg H Jonsdottir
  1. Department of Physiology, Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology, Göteborg University, Sweden, Email: inga.jons{at}fysio/


    Experimental evidence suggests that the immune system is influenced by various types of psychological and physiological stressors, including physical activity. Natural immunity, representing a first line of defence in viral infections and cytotoxicity to a variety of tumour cells, is strongly influenced by frequent exercise. This regulation includes interaction between the nervous, endocrine and immune systems and central mechanisms including the endogenous opioids are of great interest here. Chronic activation of endogenous opioid systems augments natural cytotoxicity, and the possible involvement of opioids in the exercise-induced enhancement of natural immunity is discussed. Few reports are available on acupuncture and its effect on immune function but, interestingly, the effects of acupuncture and physical exercise are somewhat similar. The physiological significance as well as the underlying mechanisms of the reported changes in natural cytotoxicity after exercise training and acupuncture is as yet unclear. However, moderate exercise training has been associated with elevated natural immune function and reduced upper respiratory tract infections and available epidemiological and experimental studies suggest that moderate physical exercise may protect against several forms of cancer.

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