Fit People Catch Fewer Colds

Think about the people in your life — who gets sick more often and more severely and who doesn’t? New research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine says that chances are, those who seem to always avoid colds or only suffer symptoms for a short blip are fitter than those who don’t.

Researchers looked at 1,000 adults’ respiratory health for 12 weeks during the autumn and winter of 2008. They also looked at the subjects self-reported data on how frequently they participated in aerobic exercise, their fitness level, what their lifestyle was like, what foods they ate and any recent stressful events, as all can affect the immune system. As you might imagine, the overall number of days of cold symptoms was different in winter and autumn — in winter the subjects had an average of 13 days of cold symptoms and 18 days in the fall.

While researchers found that being older, male and married, seemed to reduce the frequency of colds, once those factors were taken into account, the biggest predictor of having fewer days of cold symptoms was perceived fitness and the amount of exercise performed. The most interesting part? Those least affected by colds reported that they were physically active five or more days a week and felt fit.The severity of symptoms fell by 41 percent among those who felt the fittest and by 31 percent among those who were the most active, researchers report.

Exercise helps circulate immune system cells around the body, according to the study’s authors. Although these levels fall back within a few hours after a workout, each bout is likely to enhance surveillance of harmful viruses and bacteria, reducing the number and severity of infections, such as the common cold.

Most adults in the United States catch a cold two to four times a year, while kids get six to 10 a year on average. Not only do colds make you feel lethargic and just downright terrible, it’s estimated that colds cost the U.S. economy $40 billion a year. It’s easy to see how just having Americans exercise more could help the economy. Plus, who likes to be sick? It’s much more fun to be active!

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