Monday, December 23, 2013

Exercise and The Common Cold

Prevent The Common Cold This Season With Exercise!

Cough, hack, sneeze…. Yep it’s that time of year; you are probably getting a cold. It’s called “The Common Cold” and seems to be as much part of the winter season as the cold weather from which it derived its name. According to the CDC there are over 425 million colds and flus that occur annually in the US at the expense of $2.5 billion dollars. An adult on average will experience 2-3 colds per year while children may have up to 7. Contrary to popular belief, colds are not enhanced by damp or cold weather. It’s actually the effect of the weather that brings people indoors where they can spread the virus through close contact with each other.

While there are an endless number of cold remedies on the market, none of them can prevent or cure the common cold. Colds are caused by viruses so antibiotics won’t help. That leaves our bodies to fight off these nasty virus particles on our own. To kill a virus we need a strong immune system. Some of these cells, called Natural Killer cells, attack the virus on site. Other cells called B-cells create antibodies that sense the invader and attach to it signaling the attack. T-cells help to organize the attack by coordinating the other cells to perform their role. Some T-cells also attack infected cells directly but can’t get to the virus directly once it enters the host cell.

Recently, a completely new mechanism has been discovered at Cambridge University. It has always been assumed that once the virus entered the host cell, the game was over. Now we know that these antibodies follow the virus into the cell where they attract a protein called TRIM21 which in turn signals a waste disposal cell called a proteasome to dismantle the virus piece by piece before the virus can cause harm to the host. Have a look at this video:

So where does exercise fit in? Well we know that exercise has the effect of boosting the immune system, especially Killer cells and T-cells. One study showed that exercise increased the number of killer cells by as much as 300%. Another study found that in 65 year olds that exercised regularly, the number of T-cells was as high as those in people in their 30s. A study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that people who felt fit and were physically active cut the risk of having a cold by about 50%. Not only did they have fewer days suffering from a cold, but they suffered less with their symptoms when they had a cold.

The American College of Sports Medicine describes several studies linking exercise to cold prevention. In one study 61% of 700 recreational runners reported fewer colds since beginning to run. Two other well-controlled studies on young and elderly women showed that walking briskly 35-40 minutes five days a week cut the number of cold days in half compared to sedentary women.

So remember, this is the time of year when you need your immune system working at peak performance. That means eat well, sleep well, hydrate well, and above all exercise well. Those nasty cold viruses will never see it coming.

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