The benefits of exercise seem to be neverending — among other things, it helps the brain function better, reduces stress, and is important for healthy heart function. But, if you need another reason to get out there and start moving, exercise may also protect against swine flu.
I've read that exercise helps boost the body's immune system and that doing some light cardio is good during a cold, so it made sense that it could also help protect against swine flu. But given how quickly the virus has spread, coupled with a shortage of the vaccine, I think any new advice is beneficial and should be taken seriously.
While there has not been a study on the benefits of exercise in relation to swine flu specifically, there have been numerous findings that show exercise boosts the immunity system and may protect against colds and seasonal flus.
“There is evidence that moderate exercise or physical activity can be beneficial in terms of reducing the incidence and severity of upper respiratory tract infections from all causes,” says Jeffrey Woods, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “And at least one report … has shown that exercise may be protective against influenza-associated [deaths] in the elderly.”
Because of these findings, some researchers feel comfortable suggesting that exercise may be a preventative measure against swine flu.
To hear why individuals who overtrain may be more prone to swine flu, read more.
Researchers stress that moderate activity is key in protecting yourself against respiratory infections such as swine flu. Overtraining and/or participating in "grueling endurance events such as marathons" can weaken the body's immune system and temporarily make individuals more susceptible to infection and injury — even more so than those who don't exercise at all.
But before you skip out on a vaccine for an hour on the treadmill, be aware that exercise is not a cure or a force field that will protect you from swine flu or even a cold on its own: "a third of people who develop serious complications from swine flu were perfectly healthy beforehand."
Exercise is however, another level of protection that we can give ourselves in addition to getting vaccinated, washing our hands, and eating healthy foods.