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Regular Exercisers Get Fewer, Less Severe Colds


Want another reason to get off the couch and adopt a regular exercise routine? How about fewer colds this winter? Researchers at the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University in North Carolina have found that working out regularly helps to stimulate the movement of immune cells, protecting the body from invading viruses.

Frequency of Exercise is Key to Immune System Response

Dr. David Nieman and colleagues tracked the respiratory health of 1,000 people, aged 18 to 85, for a period of 12 weeks during the fall and winter of 2008. The participants answered questions about their frequency of exercise and how fit they felt they were.

Those who exercised five times a week or more got fewer and less severe colds than those who exercised once or less. The researchers found that even those regular exercisers who got colds found the length of time they experienced symptoms to be 43 to 46% less.

Read: Boosting Your Immune System Can Help Fight Illness

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The study confirms prior research that found that exercise helped to boost the immune system. In 2002, researchers publishing in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that moderate physical activity reduced the risk for an upper respiratory tract infection by 23%.

Nieman says that frequency of exercise is the key. During exercise, the body boosts the immune system for about three hours afterward. Thus, the more often you exercise, the more often the body has virus-fighting cells circulating.

Read: Natural Ways to Prepare for Flu and Cold Season

"The most powerful weapon someone has during cold season," Nieman told MyHealthNewsDaily, "is to go out, on a near-daily basis, and put in at least a 30-minute brisk walk." Even when accounting for other factors, such as gender, age, mental stress, weight, and education levels, physical activity was “head and shoulders above them all,” he said.

The study authors estimate that in the United States, adults can expect to catch a cold two to four times a year, and children can expect to get six to 10 colds annually.

Source reference:
Nieman D, et al "Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults" Br J Sports Med 2010; DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.2010.077875.