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Exercise: The Cure for the Common Cold

November 3, 2010

By Jillian Shaw

It’s cold season again, and many believe that the awful coughing, sneezing, and runny nose are just something we must endure every winter. But according to recent research, there may be an easy way to reduce the frequency and severity of cold symptoms: exercise!

According to a report by U.S. researchers published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, those who exercise at least five times a week are not only more fit, they have fewer colds per season and display symptoms significantly milder when they do catch the bug.

Researchers from North Carolina monitored upper respiratory tract infection frequency and symptom severity over a 12-week period during autumn/winter in 2008 on 1,000 individuals aged 18 to 85. 60% of participants were female and 40% were aged 19 to 39. 25% were over sixty years of age while 40% were middle aged.

The participants were asked to rate their levels of fitness, and information was gathered on how often they engaged in aerobic exercises. Other data collected included diet, lifestyle, and recent stressful occurrences, all factors that have been known to have an effect on an individual’s immune system response.

Those who were physically fit and exercised at least five times a week had a 43% to 46% lower frequency of colds compared to people who only exercised once a week. Additionally, the fittest participants had 41% lower severity of cold symptoms, and regular exercisers’ symptoms were reduced by 31%.

Researchers explain their findings by the impact of physical activity on the immune system: exercise sessions trigger a temporary increase in immune system cells that circulate within the body. Although these cell levels return to normal after exercise, they probably improve the body’s “surveillance of pathogens”, or harmful bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that cause the common cold. Improved pathogen surveillance leads to fewer and less severe infections.

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