THURSDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that regular exercise or meditation may be among the best ways to reduce acute respiratory infections.
A small study of 149 active and sedentary adults aged 50 years and older compared the preventive effects of moderate exercise and mindful meditation on the severity of respiratory infections, such as cold and flu, during a full winter season in Wisconsin.
The researchers found that those participants who started a daily exercise routine had fewer bouts of respiratory infections and missed fewer days of work. The investigators also found that those doing mindfulness meditation, which focuses on paying attention to your body and emotions, were more protected against illness.
The study was published in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.
"The results are remarkable; we saw a 40 to 50 percent reduction in respiratory infections," said Dr. Bruce Barrett, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the lead author of the study.
"When we give flu vaccines, which is one of the most well-proven and beneficial interventions that we have, it only protects at a level of 50 to 60 percent and only for a few strains of [flu] virus," Barrett added. However, he noted, it could be more difficult for some people to get regular exercise or practice meditation than to get a single flu shot.
It was not clear how physical and mental workouts could help ward off sickness. While the study uncovered an association between the mind and body activities and less illness, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
"My thinking is that mindfulness meditation would reduce perceived stress and that exercise would work through more physiological pathways [to improve] the immune system," Barrett said.
The flu virus is associated with about 36,0
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