Exercise Can Help Fight Off Colds

Yes, the tempation when you feel a cold coming on is to crawl under the covers. But maybe a better strategy is to go out and get some exercise.

At least that's the conclusion of a new study done at Chosun University in South Korea. It found that working out could help you fight off colds and other infections by strengthening the body’s immune system -- in part, by repeatedly stressing it.

Researchers gathered 28 male laboratory mice and had half of them begin a swimming regimen, during which the animals paddled around a warmish pool for 10 minutes, five days a week, for three weeks. Mice aren’t natural swimmers, so the exercise was moderately strenuous for them, the equivalent of what 30 minutes or so of jogging might be for us. The other mice remained sedentary.

Swimmers showed increases in markers of inflammation, especially in their muscles, as their bodies worked to heal the slight tissue damage that occurs during regular exercise. Overall, they displayed higher levels of inflammation than the animals that didn't exercise. Meanwhile, their fat cells were shrinking in size and number.

After three weeks, half of the swimmers and half of the inactive mice were inoculated with Staphylococcus germs. Both groups of mice began to grow ill. But the differences in the animals’ immune responses proved to be considerable. Inflammation rapidly developed in the sedentary animals, as their immune systems pumped out high numbers of cells that promote inflammation.

The swimmer mice that had been infected with the germs had much lower levels of these pro-inflammatory cells, lower even than in the uninfected swimmers. And the numbers of these cells in their lungs were particularly low. At the same time, the infected swimmers produced far more of a potent type of antimicrobial immune cell that directly kills germs, especially in their lungs.

The study authors feel that these effects are likely to be similar in people, although more research is needed.

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Sourced from: New York Times, How Exercise May Help Us Fight Off Colds