How Consistent Exercise Reduces Your Risk of Infection

Fighting through a tough run helps fight off germs

Two people running on a trail
Think you should skip your workout routine because of coronavirus? Think again.

When sickness hits, it’s in your best interest to hunker down. Rest, hydration and a reliable streaming service are the kings of recovery. But according to recent research, a daily commitment to moving around and sweating can help prevent those sick days from arriving in the first place.

As best-selling wellness writer Gretchen Reynolds explains in The New York Times, common misconceptions that exercise causes illness can be traced back to the “sniffles” marathon runners experienced in the 1980s. While diagnosed at the time as respiratory infections, “most [of the runners] had developed airway irritations or other non-infectious conditions.” Another erroneous concept, that one hard workout could open pathways for pathogens, was disproven in a 2005 experiment with mice, which exhibited that a hard hour in the gym does reshuffle immune response, but doesn’t weaken it.

In fact, endurance athletes report fewer sick days than those who do not exercise consistently, and a study just last year proved that exercise can even vanquish an active infection. Groups of sedentary and exercising mice were each injected with germs, but only the immune cells in buff mice managed to beat the infection.

It’s unlikely that you need more reasons to go out and get moving, but in the age of the coronavirus, a steady workout routine could be your best friend. A couple notes, though: make sure to practice proper hygiene at the gym and try to march into a routine at a reasonable pace, if you haven’t already been exercising. Similar to injury, infection is a friend to sudden shifts or changes in movement and lifestyle. You want to build up slowly, and your immune system will build up right alongside it.

To limit your gym time and get a routine going, we recommend signing up for a spring 5K. Daylight saving time starts this Sunday, so you’ve got an extra hour of sunlight after work to get some miles in. Set the goal, choose a six-week training plan, and try not to think about viral infections for a good half hour each day.

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