Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fight A Cold With Fitness!

The numbers are in. Frequent exercisers are 43% less likely to catch a cold this winter than their more sedentary counterparts.

Why? The most likely cause seems to be the boost in circulation that immune system cells receive from even moderate exercise like walking or strength training. Immune system cells act to thwart any viruses or bacteria trying to enter the body, so the more they circulate, the more efficiently they can fight potential intruders.

During the 2008 winter flu season, Dr. David Nieman and his team studied 1,000 adults for 12 weeks and found that those who exercised more than five times a week had significantly fewer upper respiratory infections than those who failed to fit in regular exercise. Interestingly, those who reported being more fit than others their age had 46% fewer infections overall than those who admitted they were not in great shape. Even when numerous other factors were considered, (diet, income, stress-level, etc.) physical activity was most associated with the reduction in colds.

One thing to keep in mind however: extreme physical activity - such as running a marathon or engaging in vigorous exercise - can actually lower the immune defense by exhausting the body. This, in turn, leads to an increased chance of catching a cold. The moral of the story seems to be that consistent, moderate exercise is the key to staying healthy this winter.

Also, don’t forget to wash your hands!

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