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How an Active Lifestyle Can Fend Off the Flu

We know that staying active can be good for our overall health and well-being, but can it prevent infectious diseases commonly experienced in winter like the Flu?

As we prepare for the onslaught of cooler weather heading into Winter we inevitably prepare for a greater risk of illness. You will probably soon notice the rollout of flu vaccinations rolled out in local GP clinics and pharmacies for this year, but there are other ways we can fend off the Flu in addition to traditional methods.

Those under 65 years of age who engage in moderate physical activity are likely to reduce their risk of incurring a upper respiratory tract infection by approximately 20–45% compared with those who maintain a sedentary lifestyle.

So why is this?

Numerous studies have suggested that moderate levels of physical activity can reduce the decline in circulating T cell function (a type of white blood cell that fights infection) and provide positive immunological affects such as improved antibody production and viral clearance that can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infection.

Note: T cells are just one type of cell in the body that make up our immune system, plenty of other cells are involved in immune function too!

What does moderate intensity physical activity look and feel like?

To ensure you’re engaged in moderate physical activity, you can try the Talk Test. This is a quick and simple way to measure the level of intensity of your exercise. Basically, if you’re doing moderate-intensity activities you can talk, but not sing, during the activity.

Using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is another way to do this in a more specific manner. This scale is between 6-20, and suggests that most people feel like they’re exercising at 11-14 out of 20 when undertaking moderate physical activity.

Engaging in 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity is the national average for maintaining health.

Activities can include but are not limited to:

  • Brisk walking between 4-6km/hr
  • Cycling 8-15km/hr
  • Resistance training
  • Water Aerobics
  • Dancing-Gardening
  • Housework
  • Carrying and moving loads below 20kg

So I am moderately active, what else do I need to consider in the colder months?

Chronic stress and obesity is associated with suppression of both cellular and immune function and an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infection.

Balancing work/life load, getting enough sleep, keeping hydrated and adhering to a healthy nutritional plan comes part and parcel with maintaining good health just as much as physical activity!

What happens if I am super active and I feel like I am coming down with something?

While moderate levels of physical activity is encouraged through the winter period, very prolonged strenuous bouts of exercise and periods of intensive training and competition may impair immune function, increasing susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections.

Slow down if you are unwell and lower your exercise intensity, your body might just need a rest from that high intensity exercise.

I need help!

Everyone is individual and so everyone’s baseline level of fitness is too. If you are thinking about engaging in a more structured physical activity program coming into this cooler period, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 8373 5655 and book an assessment today. Or you can book online here.


1 Choi,SM et al 2014,The Impact of Lifestyle Behaviours on the Acquisition of Pandemic(H1N1) Influenza Infection: A Case-Control Study’ Yonsei Med J 55(2):422-427,  http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c43f44cc-0edb-400e-8856-abdd7cdf3d5f%40sessionmgr120&vid=0&hid=1232

Gleeson,M et al 2013, ‘Influence of training load on upper respiratory tract infection incidence and antigen-stimulated cytokine production’, Scand J Med Sci Sports  Vol23: 451–457 http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=575bd510-0b57-4937-bb4f-d75ffeada806%40sessionmgr104&vid=0&hid=1233-

Siu,E et al ,2012 ‘Physical Activity and Influenza-Coded Outpatient Visits, a Population-Based Cohort Study’, PLoS ONEVol 7 http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=52ad0177-d0ae-4630-be3b-d6dc5c7b6c9e%40sessionmgr120&vid=1&hid=123)


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