What do we know about the benefits of exercise? Are there proven health benefits? Is it safe to work out when you have a cold? And, how much and what kind of exercise does it take to get these benefits? Most people blindly follow exercise routines and fitness instructors without knowing whether their work outs help improve health. In many cases fitness buffs may be overdoing it and suppressing their immune systems by working out too strenuously.

Exercise has proven to show some pretty amazing benefits to the body in terms of resistance to infection and certain cancers, and may possibly even improve life span! The best results have been found in those who exercise regularly at a moderate level. People who exercise moderately experience fewer days of sickness from the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).

A study done by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, found that moderate intensity exercise reduced the incidence of cold among 115 overweight, obese, previously sedentary, and post-menopausal women. Their regime consisted of moderate intensity exercise 5 days per week, for 12 months. Another study found that women who walked briskly for 35-45 min, 5 days a week, for 15 weeks, experienced half the incidence of colds as the sedentary control group. Studies have also shown that those who exercised from once a month to 3 times per week had lower death rates compared to people who never or seldom exercised.

How Does Exercise Help?

Light to moderate exercise boosts the body’s natural immune system by circulating protective cells through the body faster, to attack and eliminate bacteria, viruses and fungi. Another theory states that the increase in body temperature when we exercise may inhibit the growth of bacteria, thus reducing its foothold on the body. Others believe exercise causes the loss of carcinogens through increased sweat and urine loss.

Our chances of getting sick depends on many factors- age, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, allergies, environmental conditions (such as high altitude, extreme heat or cold and air pollution), mental stress, and other underlying diseases. Interestingly enough, active people also experience lower rates of colon cancer and breast cancer. In addition, the faster passage of food through the digestive tract in people who exercise reduces the tie carcinogens are in the body. And fit people are less likely to be overweight and tend to have less body fat, high levels of which can cause cancers.

Can I Work Out with a Cold?

Moderate training when you have a head cold with a runny nose and sneezing doesn’t appear to prolong or worsen symptoms. Some scientists rule that if mild symptoms in the mouth, nose, and throat are present it’s ok to exercise, although at a lower intensity and volume. However, if the infection has spread to the chest, causing heavy coughing and excessive production of liquid, if temperature is above normal, and if lymph glands on the neck are swollen, exercise is definitely not recommended. Exhaustive exercise during an infection will enhance the severity of the infection and prolong recovery time. In this situation, you’ll need 2-4 weeks to recover.

Moderate aerobic activity of 30 minutes, almost every day, seems to provide the most positive results in research. Brisk walking at about 70% of maximal heart rate, for 40 minutes per day, will enhance your immune system to where you have half the chance of contracting URTI as a non-exerciser. So grab those walking shoes, bathing suits, bikes and skates and get to boosting your immune systems! For more information on improving your health visit www.merylb.com

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