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Can exercise cure or prevent the common cold?

Thursday, April 02, 2009 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD

Much like during the fall, spring is often a time when it seems as though everyone around you is suffering from a cold or flu. Apparently, the common cold is the most often occurring health problem in the world.

The average adult has approximately 2-3 colds per year, while children can have up to 7 per year. This frequent illness has been estimated to result in $2.5 billion lost in work, school days and medical costs in the US alone.

Despite your mother’s wise advice, a cold does not appear to be caused by cold or damp weather conditions, but rather is passed from person to person via the air (i.e. sneezing).

The new ACSM report suggests that individuals who are consistently active have a reduced risk of catching a cold.

Specifically, the report suggests that the majority of recreational runners (60%+) report a reduction in the occurrence of common colds since initiation of training, while almost all (90%) of experienced runners report that they “rarely get sick.”

More rigorous studies which randomized individuals to either an exercise intervention or control have shown similar results with those individuals in the exercise group experiencing half the incidence of colds as those in the control group which maintained inactivity throughout the study.

However, all of the above benefits of physical activity hold only for moderate intensity exercise, as it is also true that post a prolonged and exhaustive exercise bout (i.e. marathon) immune function is depressed, thus making one more susceptible to infection.

So, rather than chewing vitamin C tablets, inhaling hot steam, or popping back some Echinacea, go for a nice brisk 30 min walk on most days of the week to help protect yourself from all the cold-ridden individuals at your work, school, home, etc.


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3 Response to "Can exercise cure or prevent the common cold?"

  1. Darya Pino Said,

    Great advice! I recommend a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables too.

    I don't remember the last time I was sick, but I woke up today with a sore throat. Boooo. Hopefully my immune system will make short work of it :)

    Posted on April 2, 2009 at 1:53 PM

  2. jvolpe Said,

    "Why exercise wont make you thin"

    Please comment on this rather shocking Time mag article. It reminds me of the "Anne Coulter" method of getting press by saying something utterly ridiculous.,8599,1914857,00.html

    Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:10 PM

  3. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @ jvolpe - Thanks for the push! You were among a few who also suggested we take a critical look at this article - please check today's discussion on the topic:


    Posted on August 17, 2009 at 7:37 AM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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