Regular exercise could increase the effectiveness of Covid vaccines by up to 40 per cent, experts believe.

The largest study of its kind found physical activity cuts the risk of dying from infectious diseases such as Covid-19 by 37 per cent and reduces the chance of catching viruses by 31 per cent.

Researchers said a 12-week physical activity programme before vaccination, could result in 20 to 40 per cent more effective immunisation.

Glasgow Caledonian University looked at 16,698 worldwide epidemiological studies published between January 1980 and April 2020, involving adults over 18.

There was no reliable data specifically for Covid-19 so the team studied similar infectious diseases of the same family.

A study led by Glasgow Caledonian University suggests regular exercise could improve Covid vaccine efficacy by as much as 40%

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The research found that 30-minutes of activity five days a week or 150-minutes per week that gets you slightly out of breath such as walking, running, cycling and strengthening exercises can have a massive impact on immunity to infectious diseases such as Covid-19.

Professor Sebastien Chastin, lead author, said they found that physical activity “strengthens the first line of defence of the human immune system and a higher concentration of immune cells”.

“This research is hugely significant and could help to cut the number people contracting COVID-19 and dying from it.

"It is the first piece of research that proves regular physical activity protects you against infectious disease.

A study led by Glasgow Caledonian University suggests regular exercise could improve Covid vaccine efficacy by as much as 40%

“We found that regular exercise where you get out of breath boosts your immunity to infectious disease by 31 per cent and it increases the number of immune cells in the body in the first line of defence which is the mucosal layer of antibodies.

"These cells are responsible for identifying foreign agents in the body without depressing the rest of the immune system so it’s perfectly safe and protects you against infectious disease.

“We also found that if you add physical activity to your vaccination programme it increases the potency of the vaccination.

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"We are recommending a 12-weeks physical activity programme before vaccination which could result in 20 to 40 per cent more effective immunisation.

"This is not a panacea but another cheap tool we can use to protect the public."

While there was no research directly linking the level of fitness with outcomes, Prof Chastin said it was reasonable to assume that the fitter you are the more likely you are to be able to fight an infection of any kind.

The findings have been sent to the Scottish Government and other governments around world as well as public health experts and healthcare professionals.

Professor Chastin advised the public to build regular physical activity into their weekly routine to help them fight off the COVID-19 virus.

He added: “The clear message is stay active – it’s not only good for your mental and general health but we now have the proof that it is also good for boosting your immunity."

The research paper, Effects of regular physical activity on the immune system, vaccination and risk of community acquired infectious disease in the general population: Systematic review and meta-analysis’ has been published in the Sports Medicine journal.