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Vigorous Exercise May Reduce Flu Risk

Cycling VigorouslyRegular exercise is important for maintaining good health. Now a new report from the United Kingdom suggests that vigorous exercise may help reduce the risk of catching influenza, or the flu.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by various flu viruses. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Complications of the flu include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, and death. The respiratory flu is not the same as the stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, which is characterized by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

For the present report, researchers examined data from the UK Flusurvey, an online survey run by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in which more than 4,800 individuals have already participated this year. The release of the survey coincides with National Science & Engineering Week, an annual event run by the British Science Association that encourages more young people to engage in science.

Comments Imran Khan, CEO of the British Science Association, on the project:

“If we want to get young people talking about science, we need to show why scientific study today directly impacts on their lives. This project, which involves children reporting and analysing topical data, really brings the issue to life and puts young people right at the heart of cutting-edge research today.”

Flusurvey collects data directly from the general public rather than through traditional surveillance methods. Because many individuals with flu-like symptoms do not visit a doctor or hospital, so self-reported online surveys are important for flu surveillance.

According to the survey, engaging in vigorous exercise for at least 2.5 hours a week may reduce the risk of experiencing a flu-like illness by around 10 percent. Vigorous exercise is defined as exercise that raises the pulse rate, makes an individual sweat, and makes an individual breathe hard and fast to the point of not being able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

The same reduction in flu risk was not found for moderate exercise, which also raises the pulse and causes but does not affect breathing as dramatically as vigorous exercise.

States Dr. Alma Adler, ambassador for National Science & Engineering Week and Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, on the findings of the Flusurvey:

“We’re really interested in the preliminary findings around fitness activity and flu-like illness, as exercise is something that everyone can do to reduce your chance of having flu. We need to treat this result cautiously as these are preliminary findings, however they are consistent with findings for other conditions and really show the health benefits of exercise. Although many people have dodged the flu bullet this winter, flu can occur at any time, so taking advantage of the better weather is a great opportunity to get out and get fit to ward off flu this spring.”

Additional research is necessary to confirm the association between vigorous exercise and reduced risk of flu. The researchers also caution against exercising while ill, which can cause more harm than good and can weaken the immune system. Receiving the seasonal flu vaccine is also the best way to prevent the flu.

References

Keeping fit could cut the risk of catching flu: https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2014/flusurvey_prelim_results_2014.html
Vigorous exercise tied to reduced flu risk: Vigorous exercise tied to reduced flu risk

Image Credits

Cycling Vigorously: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1210241

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