It’s that time of year where everyone around you seems to be sniffling and sneezing. Indeed, the average adult has two to three upper respiratory infections each year. Those who exercise regularly, however, are not only in better physical shape, they’re also 50% less likely to come down with a cold in fall and winter, according to a new British study . Furthermore, if exercisers do get sick, their symptoms are typically less severe and they recover more quickly than their sedentary counterparts.
How much exercise is necessary to ward off a cold? Consistency appears to be key, but also a frequency of 5 days a week of aerobic exercise, according to this research. Interestingly, heavy physical exertion, such as that during a marathon, may lower immune response. Studies have found marathon runners are more likely to get sick the week after a race . I know from personal experience, I was much more vulnerable to catching a cold after racing a marathon (particularly one that I had to travel to and from by airplane) rather than while training for it.
When it comes to optimizing your immune system, it all comes down to balance. Exercise aerobically regularly and if you do exert yourself strenuously – such as during a race – get some extra rest and load up on vegetables and fruits for a couple of weeks after your event.