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More physical activity protects children from the common cold

Tracking the physical activity of children aged four to seven, researchers examined a relationship between exercise levels and upper respiratory tract infection symptoms. Wearing pedometer armbands 24 hours per day for 40 days, each participant was monitored for both their activity rate and sleep duration; additionally parents reported any URTI symptoms in their child over a 60 day period.

The results showed that an increase of 1,000 daily steps was associated with a reduction of 4.1 days affected by symptoms such as congestion or coughing due to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). Moreover, regular participation in sports – three hours per week or more – experienced fewer days with URTI symptoms than those who did not participate in sports.

An increase in daily activity levels at the beginning of a study resulted in drastically fewer days with respiratory tract infection symptoms during subsequent weeks. The data revealed that children who took an average of 5,668 steps per day over their first two weeks experienced almost 200 more symptomatic days than those taking 9,368 on average. The authors did not identify associations between URTI symptoms and sleep duration, siblings, vaccinations, or exposure to pet hair or smoking. 

The researchers speculate that such mitigation could be due to reductions in inflammatory cytokines as well as small extracellular vesicles released by skeletal muscle post-exercise which help modulate immune response. Although this study provides insight into a possible association between increased exercise levels and decreased infection susceptibility, further research is needed before definitive conclusions can be made about causality.

Ostrzyzek-Przezdziecka, K., Panczyk, M., Bronikowski, M. et al. Association of low physical activity with higher respiratory tract infections frequency among pre-school children. Pediatr Res (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-022-02436-7

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1 year ago

Great article. Thanks for keeping us up to date with the latest research. It will be interesting to see if the results are the same for adults too. Keep up the good work, Jayney.

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