Colds and Physical Activity

Here’s yet another great reason to get your exercise. People who are physically fit and active catch fewer colds, and the colds they do get are milder.

A team of scientists examined 12 weeks worth of data on 1,000 adults who reported on their perceived fitness and their exercise and dietary habits.

Researchers studied the autumn and winter seasons of 2008. They found that people who were physically fit and who engaged in exercise five or more days per week were about half as likely to suffer cold symptoms compared to participants who reported less physical activity.

What is more the severity of symptoms fell by 41% among those who felt fittest and by 31% among the most physically active.

The researchers say the average adult can expect to have a cold two to four times annually, while children can catch from a half dozen to 10 colds a year. Exercising apparently sparks a temporary rise in immune system cells, and each round of exercise is thought to enhance the body’s surveillance of harmful viruses and bacteria, thereby reducing the number and severity of infections such as the common cold.

The study is published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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