Published: 07-02-2011 00:00 | Updated: 26-11-2013 10:29

Physical activity protects against colds

[NEWS, 4 February 2011] A new doctoral thesis from Karolinska Institutet shows that people with a high level of physical activity reported 18 percent fewer colds than those with a low activity level. The findings are based on data from 1509 Swedish men and women, who were followed for fifteen weeks concerning physical exercise and general health. Highly stressed people, particularly men, appeared to benefit more from physical activity than those reporting lower stress levels.

Elinor FondellPhoto: Gunilla Sonnebring

Upper respiratory tract infection is the most common reason for seeking primary health care in many countries. Scientists have long known that lifestyle factors like physical activity, stress, sleep and diet affects the body's immune system. But still there is little knowledge about how one may actively reduce susceptibility to common infections such as colds.

In her thesis, Elinor Fondell has studied how lifestyle factors affect the risk of colds and influenza. The thesis shows that a person with a sedentary work needs to sustain a high level of physical activity (jog or go to the gym) approximately one hour per day, and moderate physical activity (walking the dog, carry heavier housework) about three hours a day to reduce the risk of colds. A heavy full-time work will also offer the level required to reduce the risk of colds.

The study about physical activity and colds will be published in the February 2011 issue in the scientific journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Doctoral thesis:

Elinor Fondell

Web-based studies of lifestyle factors and immune function

ISBN: 978-91-7457-177-6

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