Help Fight Off Colds This Winter by Exercising

December 6, 2010

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Photo: Courtesy of Simon Howden

We have all heard the household remedies for fighting off the common cold, such as washing your hands frequently or consuming vitamin C. New research from a report published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that people who exercise regularly tend to have fewer colds than sedentary people. The study tracked over 1,000 participants from ages 18 to 85 for three months, recording their cold symptoms, amount of aerobic exercise, and various other factors that could potentially affect the immune system.

The researchers found that people who exercised five or more days per week (for at least 20 minutes per day) decreased the chances of developing the common cold by 50% when compared with participants with a sedentary lifestyle. While the researchers looked into a variety of different factors affecting the frequency of colds, they found exercise to be one of the biggest factors to help boost the immune system. When you do aerobic exercises such as running or jogging, the body’s ‘fight or flight’ system kicks in, which causes increased heart rate, increased blood flow, and many other bodily responses. Scientists believe that this activation of the body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ reflex is enough to activate the immune system and cause the immune cells to attack viruses, therefore preventing some colds before they start.

It’s important to note that exercise does not cure the common cold; it can only help prevent it. Like any other preventive method, even the most physically active person could develop a cold. However, more research on the effects of exercise on the immune system is on the horizon. Get your 20 minutes of exercise each day and your body could thank you for it this winter.

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