Quick Study: Colds seem less common and severe among those who exercise most

Monday, November 8, 2010; 2:59 PM


As exercise increases, symptoms of the common cold decline

THE QUESTION Frequent hand-washing and other good hygiene practices can help prevent colds. Might exercise do the same?

THIS STUDY followed 1,002 adults, most in their mid-40s, during the fall and winter, which are prime seasons for upper respiratory tract infections. Participants' exercise and fitness levels, stress, lifestyle and eating habits were tracked. In a 12-week span, participants had cold symptoms, on average, eight days during the fall and 13 during the winter months. Those who exercised aerobically five or more days a week had colds on 43 percent fewer days than did those who exercised one day or less a week. Also, colds were less severe for people who were the most active and fit.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Adults, who generally get two to four colds a year, most of them between September and May. Together with colds that afflict children, that adds up to about 1 billion colds a year in the United States. Colds are highly contagious and have bothersome symptoms - often a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and a sore throat - and usually last from two days to two weeks.

CAVEATS Much of the data came from the participants' responses to questionnaires.

FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 1 online issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT the common cold at www.niaid.nih.gov and www.lungusa.org.

- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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