Results from this year’s online flu survey suggest that 10% of people could prevent the flu by simply engaging in vigorous exercise. Around 4,800 people took part in the survey ran by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with the results displaying the link between vigorous exercise and a reduced the chances of catching the flu.
The survey, now in its fifth year, tracks as much detail as possible to categorise which participants may have caught the flu, and how. Questions include: are participants around children, if they have been vaccinated and how many hours of “vigorous exercise” do they partake in each week. Participants then log in each week and note how they are feeling, and whether they have any flu-like symptoms.
Dr Alma Adler, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine concluded the results and 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.”
This winter flu rates were relatively low, with 4.7% of reports producing flu-like symptoms compared with 6% last year. In children specifically there was a lower level of flu-like conditions, with just 5% reporting symptoms compared with 7.9% last year.
The interesting aspect of the study is that specifically vigorous exercise is needed to counteract the flu, opposed to moderate or lower levels of physical activity. Health experts define vigorous intensity as exercises that will raise your pulse, make you sweat and breathe hard and fast to the point where you are unable to talk at the same time.
Moderate intensity exercises, such as gentle jogging or fast walking, are those that raise your pulse rate and makes you sweat due to working hard, yet during which your are still able to sing song lyrics or hold small conversations
These moderate intensity activities burn off three to six times as much energy per minute as you do when you are sitting quietly, whilst vigorous-intensity activities burn more than 6 METs. The definition of how intense you are training is also a personal matter. Each individual has a different level of fitness and so training to a vigorous intensity will differ between persons. For example a brisk walk would be considered vigorous for an older woman, yet for a young marathon runner to achieve this state of intensity he would need to perform a much different style of exercise.
For the average person, light exercise is defined as walking, sitting and using the computer, house tasks such as cleaning and cooking and playing most musical instruments.Moderate exercise is more likely to be brisk walking, light effort cycling, soft jogging and individual sports for the amateur such as golf, tennis and badminton.
More vigorous exercise include: hiking, running, fast cycling, team sports such as basketball, football and rugby, and training regimes such as crossfit, spin bike, boxercise and training camps.
How could you take up two and a half hours of vigorous exercise a week?