Thursday, February 14, 2008

Exercise and illness

Consider, briefly, the brave little mice of Urbana, Illinois. Despite coming down with influenza, these rodents rallied themselves off their couches and hit the exercise wheel for a gentle workout in the first days of the illness. They envied at first their colleagues who were allowed to continue vegging out in front of the TV, but were grateful in the final analysis to the scientists who urged them onward.

Those aging mice who overcame aches and fever to sweat it out a little on the wheel were significantly more likely to survive the virus than their sedentary buddies. Those go-getter mice, however, who followed the 'if a little is good, more is better philosophy' were also more likely to suffer complications or death from the flu.

Dr. Jeffrey Woods and colleagues theorized that the mice who motored fared better due to the inflammation modulating effects of exercise. Dr. Woods said "We think what leads to mortality is not the virus per se, but the host's response to the virus, and what exercise does is actually decrease the immunopathology within the lungs."

Better then to meet this flu season (and the morning paper predicts a brisk uprise in cases in the coming month) in good shape. Once you succumb (and no thanks to the lady who coughed up a storm in my exam room yesterday WITHOUT covering her mouth), a little treadmill workout may be a good thing.


JeanMac said...

I don't have the nerve, but when my brother is in a store, etc. and someone doesn't cover up, he asks them to do so.
What used to get me, healthy patients would bring their sick spouse,etc. to appt. to sit in the reception area???

Ruth said...

I have noticed that when I exercise regularly, I rarely get sick. It is usually at times like Christmas, when good routines and moderate eating are ignored that a cold takes hold. Interesting study. I need to post it by my treadmill once I take the clothes off it!