Worried About Getting Sick? Get Some Exercise!

Worried about catching the latest virus or flu? We all have been very well- informed of the importance of proper, thorough and frequent handwashing to help keep germs at bay, but did you know regular moderate exercise has been shown to reduce your risk of getting sick, too?

Exercising can help prevent illnesses: Studies have shown that regular moderate exercise can help boost your immunity to colds and other viruses. David C. Nieman, former president of the International Society of Exercise Immunology, said his research shows that “moderate exercise increases the recirculation of important immune cells, especially from bone marrow, the lungs and the spleen.”  One study of 1000 people from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that participants who were physically active for five or more days a week were unwell with a cold for about five days a year compared to nine days for the people who got little or no exercise.   Further, this study found that people who exercise and who do catch something report their symptoms as far less severe than people who don’t exercise.

The caveat:  As they say…everything in moderation. “The general consensus, I believe, is that 30 minutes, three or four times a week, is generally considered to have positive effects,” said Michael Flynn, from Purdue University who studies the effects of exercise on the immune system. Neiman’s studies, reported in Sports Medicine in 1999, revealed that while regular moderate exercise can boost your immunity, intense exercise may increase your risk of an upper respiratory infection because “many parts of your immune system change immediately after heavy physical exertion, this “open window” of altered immunity (which may last between three hours and three days) may give bacteria and viruses a chance to strike.”

I’m sick – should I exercise? It’s probably the last thing you want to do when you’re sick, but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do! Dr Richard Besser, author and chief health and medical editor at ABC News says, use the “neck rule”: If your symptoms are above the neck—sneezing, sinus pressure, stuffy nose—then breaking a sweat is generally considered safe. Listen to your body…”. Dr Besser suggests moderate exercise, like walking, jogging, yoga and swimming may help open up airways and help act as a natural decongestant.  

So in addition to eating well, washing my hands, and getting enough sleep, I plan to keep on the exercising… how about you?