Stronger immune system, fewer colds with active lifestyle
Good physical condition and a lifestyle that includes lots of intensive exercise strengthen the immune system and reduce the likelihood of catching colds. This is suggested by a study that sports scientist David Nieman, of Appalachian State University, published in 2011 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Exercise & the immune system
People who do regular intensive exercise catch cold less often. [Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Aug;34(8):1242-8.] [Gerontology. 2007;53(4):187-93.] [Int J Sports Med. 2008 Feb;29(2):158-62.] [Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Jan;32(1):46-51.] [Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Feb;43(2):272-9.] But athletes notice that the opportunities to fall ill increase during periods when they train more intensively.
Apparently there's a U curve: intensive exercise reduces the chance of catching a cold, but very intensive exercise increases the chance. So is the latter effect so strong that athletes are ill more often than non-athletes?
The researchers followed 1002 adult participants whose lifestyle they had a pretty good picture of, for a period of 12 weeks. The study took place in the winter.
Age was the most important factor that determined whether the participants caught cold or not. In joint second place were the number of times per week that the participants did intensive exercise and their perceived fitness.
In the figures above the researchers have filtered out the effects of all other factors that had been measured: age, education level, marital status, sex, stress level, body mass index and fruit intake.
"These data indicate that high perceived physical fitness and near-daily aerobic activity are important correlates of reduced upper respiratory tract infection frequency (43% and 46%, respectively) and severity (32%, 41%)," the researchers concluded. "These data are consistent with government guidelines urging the general public to include exercise within their daily routines to improve health."
"Among the various demographic and lifestyle factors evaluated in this study of 1002 men and women, perceived fitness and exercise frequency ranked second only to older age in the magnitude of reduction of days with upper respiratory tract infection during the winter and fall seasons."
Br J Sports Med. 2011 Sep;45(12):987-92.
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