Flu risk 'cut by vigorous exercise'

Runners Running is one form of potentially "flu-beating" exercise

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Doing at least two and a half hours of vigorous exercise each week cuts the chance of developing flu, new data suggests.

Around 4,800 people took part in this year's online Flu Survey, run by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Moderate exercise did not appear to have a protective effect, the researchers said.

Overall, flu rates have been relatively low this winter.

The Flu Survey, now in its fifth year, tries to track as much detail as possible about who does and does not get flu.

One of the questions people must answer when they register, as well as their age, if they are around children and if they have been vaccinated, is how many hours of "vigorous exercise" they do each week, such as running, fast cycling or competitive sports, ranging from none to more than five hours.

They are then asked to log in each week and note how they are feeling, and whether or not they have any flu-like symptoms.

Flu virus There seem to have been fewer cases of flu this winter
'Dodged the flu bullet'

The researchers say their findings suggest 100 cases of flu per 1,000 people could be prevented just by engaging in vigorous exercise.

They also said this year's survey found some of the lowest reports of flu-like illness in recent years.

Over the winter flu season, only 4.7% of reports were positive for flu-like symptoms compared with 6% last year.

Children also appear to have had lower levels of flu-like illness than last year with just 5% reporting symptoms this flu season compared with 7.9% last year.

Dr Alma Adler, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "We need to treat this result cautiously as these are preliminary findings. However, they are consistent with findings for other conditions and really show the health benefits of exercise.

"Although many people have dodged the flu bullet this winter, flu can occur at any time, so taking advantage of the better weather is a great opportunity to get out and get fit to ward off flu this spring."

Flu Survey provides data to the government, and feeds into Public Health England's national flu surveillance programmes and is being released at the start of National Science & Engineering Week.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    So in the last two weeks, we have to now take vigourous exercise, cut down on sugar, have a low fat diet. Don't smoke, drink in moderation. Do this, do that.
    I'm predicting a huge increase in psychiatric neuroses disorders from millions of people going crazy trying to figure out what they CAN do and eat - apart from oily mackerel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    I recently read a report that we now think that saturated fats do not cause health problems. My exercise is limited to walking to work and climbing up to my seat to watch football. As a drinker and smoker I can say that I haven't had flu for the last 10 years. I've had a nasty cough for the last three months but that seems to have passed. Just get on with enjoying your lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Me and My Wife play squash at least 3 times a week, eat well and avoid people that look ill. We sleep well too and if we ever get a cold stay in so as not to pass it on. If everyone behaved like this, then we would have very few problems (in general) But instead we end up dissapointed with other people letting their standards slip and showing no consideration to others. We are not liked by losers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Vigorous exercise is a great thing for all aspects of life. People need to monitor their weight, reduce it if they're obese (calculated by BMI) and ensure that they are pushing their bodies with exercise each week. If you work hard at fitness, your body serves you well. Stop the whinging and excuses. Just do it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    It seems like a lot of exercise for the same effect as a yearly vaccine. I stopped getting flu by retiring. Working from home has the same effect - just not coming into contact with hundreds of other people in the course of a day's work drastically reduces anyone's chances of getting infected.


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