Swine flu hysteria is all around us. Want to boost your immune system so you have a better chance to fight infection? Try regular — but not too drastic — exercise. Believe it or not, studies have hinted that people who are physically active on a day-to-day basis suffer from fewer colds and flu, and less severe infections, than those who are inactive.
In a new animal study, researchers divided mice into two groups: those who regularly ran on a treadmill over a 3.5-month period, and those who didn’t work out. When the mice were infected with the flu virus, the ones who exercised developed less-severe symptoms than the couch potato mice.
The mice who exercised regularly showed less inflammation in their lungs. While researchers aren’t sure if the same effect occurs in humans, it does help explain earlier studies indicating exercise is protective against respiratory illness. Be sure to keep exercise moderate; other studies have found exhausting workouts can weaken the immune system.
Moderate exercise includes things like brisk walking and bike riding. Other benefits, of course, include reducing risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The study, which was done in Iowa, was published in the Nov. 1 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.