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Immunological research has previously shown that regular exercise improves immune system function in a way that would suggest that people who are more fit would be more resistant to illness. Interestingly, until recently little evidence has been collected to prove that people who are more "fit" actually get sick less.
Researchers in North Carolina tracked the frequency of upper respiratory tract infections in over 1000 men and women over 1 year. At the end of the 12 month period, participants completed questionnaires that solicited information on lifestyle, exercise type and frequency, self-reported fitness level, nutrition, and stress.
The most active participants, those who exercised more than 5 times per week aerobically had 46% fewer colds than those at the opposite extreme who trained less than one time per week. Moreover, those who exercised the most had less severe symptoms and recovered from cold symptoms faster than the most sedentary group.
Interestingly, the researchers discovered that older, married men had a lower frequency of colds compared to other groups.
Aerobic exercise has previously been shown to increase the activity of immune system cells that fend off viruses. This is a temporary effect that occurs following an acute bout of exercise. The immune system returns to normal function thereafter. This helps explain why greater frequency of exercise was the greatest contributor to preventing colds in the current study.
In an article by HealthDay News, it was written that annual healthcare costs associated with the common cold currently top $40 billion. Consequently, a little exercise could go a long way in improving health care costs in the US.