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Prevent a cold by exercising

2nd November 2010

People who stay active can reduce their risk of catching colds by nearly one half, according to a recent US study.

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The researchers found that regular exercise not only reduced people's chances of catching colds, but made the effects of infection less severe.

Adults usually have between two and five colds a year.

For the study, the researchers polled about 1,000 people, asking them the number of days they had been sick, as well as asking them how fit they thought themselves to be and how much exercise they got.

The researchers followed the 1,000 volunteers for three months, during the autumn and winter, rating their fitness levels using a 10-point scoring system.

Ignoring the amount of exercise people got, older, the researchers found that married men who ate plenty of fruit had the lowest statistical risk of catching a cold.

However, getting exercise, as well as having a belief in one's own health, were more statistically significant than gender, age, fruit consumption, or marital status combined.

The researchers also asked the study subjects about their lifestyles, diets, and recent stressors, all of which have an effect on immune system function.

They found that people who felt the fittest had 41% less cold symptoms.

People who were the most active had 31% less cold symptoms.

The number of sick days people reported varied significantly between winter and autumn, with an average of 13 sick days in the winter and an average of 8 in autumn.

The researchers have some conjectures about how exercise may affect people's cold susceptibility.

They said that exercise sparked a temporary rise in immune system cells, giving them a better advantage over invading bacteria and viruses.

They also said that lack of sleep and poor nutrition had a bad effect on the immune system, and increased the risk of upper respiratory tract infections.

Professor Steve Field, chairman of the UK's Royal College of General Practitioners, said that the study reflected what people had believed for a long time.


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