Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Exercise beats colds.

Prof David C Nieman has found that the way to avoid getting colds in the first place, and cut the severity of those you do catch, is moderate exercise. Thinking of yourself as fit also had the same effect, although this seems to be mainly an overlap with exercising regularly.

Nieman’s team followed 1,000 US adults, aged 18-85 for 12 weeks, half during autumn and half during winter.

People rated how fit they thought they were on a 10 point scale. They logged when they did moderate exercise, defined as 20 minutes or more at one time.  Frequency and severity of colds were also logged using a validated method.

The team then stripped out a number of factors to get at the fitness impact.  When they did this and compared those in the top third against those in the bottom third,  regular moderate exercise ( 5 days per week) cut the number of days with a cold by nearly half, while the severity was cut by around a third.  Perceived fitness overlapped with actual exercise and produced much the same result.

The authors suggested that regular moderate exercise might be periodically boosting the immune system. Since the boost is short-lived (a few hours), the ‘regular’ part is explained.

‘Moderate’, just enough to break into a sweat, is also important. Moderate exercise does not elevate stress hormones (which can suppress the immune system rather than boosting it), while hard exercise does boost stress levels.

These effects all dose-dependent. The more active people were, even at levels lower than above, the fewer days spent with a cold.

Plugging the other factors back in, the following all cut the risk of getting a cold – older age, medium or high fitness, lower education, being male, being married, having a higher body mass index and eating fruit. The biggest modifiable factor was still exercise.


November 2, 2010 - Posted by | Activity, Aging, BMI - body mass index, Cold - common cold, David C Nieman, Diet, Exercise, Health, Success

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