A new study suggests that regular, moderate exercise can reduce the risk of colds in postmenopausal women.
The year-long study examined 115 sedentary, overweight, postmenopausal women, none of whom smoked or took hormone-replacement therapy.
Half were assigned to an aerobic exercise group and half only attended a weekly stretching class. It was the first randomized clinical trial investigating the relationship between physical activity and the common cold.
By the study's end, the women who exercised regularly had half the risk of colds of those who didn't work out. The ability of moderate exercise to ward off colds seemed to grow the longer it was used. The enhanced immunity was strongest in the final quarter of the year-long exercise program, suggesting that it is important to stick with exercise long term to get the full effects.
Colds are a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from work and school. Americans suffer from approximately 1 billion colds per year, or about two to four colds per year for all adults.
A regular exercise program can do amazing things for your health, like beating Alzheimer's and diabetes, and can also boost your immune system.
The patients in the exercising group were asked to exercise about 45 minutes a day at home and the gym for five days a week, but they were only able to reach the 30-minute mark per day, with brisk walking accounting for the bulk of their body work.
Still, that was enough to strengthen the immune systems of women in the exercise group over time and successfully ward off colds.
This is more evidence that it's crucial to treat exercise like a drug that must be properly prescribed, monitored and maintained for you to enjoy the most benefits. That means, however, you can't bank exercise either; exercise is not like money. Even if you were a world-class athlete, in about two weeks of non-exercise you would start to experience serious deconditioning.
There are three important variables to keep in mind when exercising:
I encourage my patients who need to use exercise as a drug to treat diabetes or obesity to gradually increase the amount of time they are exercising to 60 to 90 minutes a day. Initially the frequency is daily, but this is a treatment dose until you normalize your weight and insulin levels. Once normalized, you will only need to exercise three to four times a week.
You can exercise hard enough so that it is difficult to talk to someone next to you. When you are exercising that hard your cardiovascular system is under such a significant amount of stress that the mere act of talking makes you unable to provide your body with enough oxygen. However, if you cannot carry on a conversation AT ALL, then you have gone too far and need to decrease the intensity.
If you want to get to work but don't know where to begin, consider my beginner's page that includes a free table you can use to track your progress.