Exercise as medicine – not only for your heart and other muscles

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Here in Norway, we have four beautiful seasons. We are finishing one of the finest summers in modern time, and now the autumn is knocking heavily on our doors. Following the change of season also comes a colder weather, and shortened time of sunlight during the day. Importantly, also comes increased incidence of bad colds, fever and different airway infections. Some swear to vitamins, honey, and a number of other nutrients and experimental ways of avoiding these unpleasant, but usually mild and harmless diseases. However, have you taken your daily dose of exercise as medicine?

Read also: Why children should walk to school

It is frequently written about the positive effects of exercise on lifestyle-related and chronic diseases, i.e. type II diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Also, aerobic exercise has been recognized for its influence on the immune system. But it is my view often overlooked by the susceptibility to infections that are often harassing high-level endurance athletes. Yes, heavy training programs have been shown to have an inverse relationship between lower immune function and high exercise volumes.

Photo: iStockRecently, a study on mice was published in Journal of Applied Physiology with emphasis on exercise and bacterial infections. They exercised for 4 weeks and infected them with streptococcus pneumonia 72 hours after the last bout of exercise. The mice were evaluated 12 hours and 10 days after the injected infections. The animals were exercised for 60 min/day, 5 days/week. The result is interesting; the exercised mice had a decreased amount of bacteria, and an attenuated lung inflammation compared to inactive control group. Also, the exercise gave a protective effect during both the acute (12 hours) and late phases (10 days) of the infection. One of the researchers hypothesis is that exercise enhances the production of anti-oxidant enzymes.

If you have not been stricken with a bacterial infection of any kind yet, my best advice is to start exercise. It may not save you from any sickness at all, but does make the infection less harmful, and you heal faster!

Stay healthy, start exercise. And the good thing is that you need no prescription!

Henning Ofstad Ness, Phd student at  CERG


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