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Another Way to Keep Colds Away

Being physically active is good for your waistline and helps keep cholesterol levels in line. Some studies suggest that it even keeps you happier. Now there's another reason to work up a sweat. It seems that exercise also keeps colds away.

PWP popup sick days Researchers studied 12 months of data collected from interviews with 547 healthy men and women ages 20 to 70 to see if there was a correlation between the amount of physical activity a person gets and the frequency or duration of upper respiratory infection (commonly referred to as a cold or flu). They found that, indeed, engaging in moderate physical activity lowered a person's risk of catching a cold.

How Much Activity?

Being physically active does not necessarily mean training for a 5K run or a marathon. Very few people who engaged in this study participated in extreme physical activity.

The majority of the people in the study were non-athletes. The physical activities they engaged in included household chore activities (dusting, mowing the lawn), occupational activity (stocking shelves, using stairs to deliver inter-office mail), and leisure activity (brisk walking, backyard badminton).

People whose physical activities met federal guidelines were less likely to get a cold. The most noticeable reduction occurred in the summer and fall, where the risk reduction was slightly more than 30 percent. Additionally, when the people who were moderately or vigorously active did get sick, they experienced milder symptoms. Other studies indicate that regular physical activity decreases the amount of sick time a person takes when he or she does get sick.

As you might expect, those whose physical activity did not meet the federal guidelines didn't experience these benefits.

The Recommendation

The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that Americans engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (such as brisk walking) on most (preferably all) days of the week. While numerous health benefits are listed, currently, the federal government doesn't list cold prevention as a benefit.

Exercise isn't going to keep you from ever getting sick. Yet, research is mounting to indicate that 30 minutes of moderate physical activity is better than a daily apple to help you resist colds and flu.


1. Matthews CE et al. Moderate to vigorous physical activity and risk of upper-respiratory tract infection. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; 34(8).

Written by:: Paula Wart
Reviewed:: 9/21/2012

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis of specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt professional medical attention if you have a particular concern about your health or specific symptoms. Wellsource, Inc. is not liable for any health consequences resulting from your use of this site.