National Influenza Vaccination Week: Can Exercise Prevent Cold and Flu?
Cold and flu season is underway, and even though the weather's cooling, you should still get in your exercise! You know that regular physical activity improves your mood, increases your energy, and can help you maintain a healthy weight, but did you know it can boost your immune response? Read on to learn about how exercise might reduce the chances of catching an upper respiratory infection!
How does exercise boost your immune system?
We're not entirely sure what how exercise helps boost our immune system, but there are a number of prevalent ideas:
- Increased respiration: breathing harder during physical activity may help expel bacteria from your lungs and airways, reducing the chance of getting colds or the flu.
- Temperature rise: the increase in body temperature during physical activity may kill some bacteria, in the same way you get a fever during illness to fight it.
- Lower stress: Exercise slows the release of stress hormones that can cause lower immune response and increase the chance of illness.
- Better circulation: Exercise increases circulation, and in doing so, allows antibodies and white blood cells to travel through the body more easily and rapidly, fighting disease more efficiently.
Is there proof exercise increases immunity?
Research is always ongoing, but we have plenty of studies suggesting that regular physical activity reduces the chance of an upper respiratory infection. Even beyond this direct correlation, we know that exercising regularly increases your energy, improves your mood, and lowers your weight, all of which reduces the risk of illness and makes you more capable of fighting it off.
How much should I exercise?
It can vary based on age and physical condition, but in general adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, which portions out to 30 minutes of exercise for 5 days out of a week. This can be substituted with 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, but you should always check with your doctor before pursuing any change in physical activity, especially when increasing intensity and duration of workouts.
Recommended forms of moderate intensity physical activity include:
- Brisk walks or speedwalking.
- Water aerobics.
- Biking at moderate speed, with few hills.
- Doubles tennis.
- Yard work: raking, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow.
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Please consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before taking any medication, supplements, or beginning a new health regimen.