‘Working out helps fight Harmattan colds’
*Doing lots of exercise while overweight does not prevent early death
HARMATTAN is here again with its attendant cold, dry and dusty weather. It also leaves most Nigerians battling with colds, cough and catarrh.
But recent study suggests that regular exercises will not only prevent premature death but fight off infections including the cold virus. The researchers, however, said that doing lots of exercise while overweight does not prevent early death.
According to a timely new study, working out could help us fight off colds and other infections. The study, published in Scientific Reports, which found that regular exercise strengthens the body’s immune system in part by repeatedly stressing it, was conducted in animals. But the results most likely apply to people, the researchers say, and could offer further incentive for us to remain physically active this winter.
In broad terms, our immune system reacts to invading microbes through a variety of cells. Some of these cells don’t directly combat the infection, but instead promote the development of inflammation. When we think of inflammation, we usually think of fever, swelling and redness. But inflammation can also be a good thing, helping the body to heal itself as it fights invading microbes.
The problem is that inflammation can easily get out of hand. If the inflammatory response to an infection or injury is too robust or indiscriminate, the inflammation can ultimately cause more tissue damage and lingering health problems than it prevents.
Scientists have long tried to determine why inflammation sometimes grows rampant in the body. One thing they’ve noticed is that fat cells are particularly adept at producing substances that promote inflammation, in part as a response to messages from the immune system.
But fat cells also often produce inflammatory substances in greater amounts than needed to fight germs, in some cases even when there is no actual infection.
As a result, past studies have found, obesity in animals and people can lead to elevated levels of inflammation throughout the body and, interestingly, a weaker overall immune response to an infection or illness.
Because of these links between fat cells and the immune response, scientists at Chosun University in Gwangju, South Korea, and other institutions recently began to consider whether exercise might affect the body’s response to germs. Among the many effects of physical activity, exercise generally reduces the amount of fat in the body and also alters levels of inflammation.
Meanwhile, being fat but fit is a myth, scientists claim. If you are overweight, doing lots of exercise will not prevent an early death.
Researchers say it is far more important to be slim, even if you are unfit.
For years experts have believed it is possible to be ‘fat but fit’ and still relatively healthy.
Heavier adults have assumed that those few extra pounds didn’t matter as long as they took regular exercise.
But findings from a Swedish study of more than 1.3 million men suggest they were wrong.
Professor Peter Nordstrom, from Umea University, looked at the records of men for an average of 29 years from when they were 18 to adulthood.
They had all joined the armed forces, which involved undertaking a fitness test on an exercise bike when they signed up.
The men had also been weighed and measured, which enabled researchers to calculate whether they were obese.
Professor Nordstrom and his team then looked at the men’s records to see who had since died from illnesses including cancer and heart disease.
They found that men who were fit were generally far less likely to die than if they were inactive.
But this effect was cancelled out if they were overweight.
And men who were slim and inactive were 30 per cent less likely to die than those who were fat but fit.
Professor Nordstrom, whose study is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, said: “Unfit normal-weight individuals had a 30 per cent lower risk of death from any cause than fit obese individuals.
“‘Low aerobic fitness in late adolescence is associated with an increased risk of early death. Furthermore, the risk of early death was higher in fit obese individuals than unfit normal weight individuals.”
He said the findings contradicted the belief that “obese individuals can fully compensate mortality risk by being physically fit.”
Professor Nordstrom said that being slim – having a low body mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity – was more crucial in preventing early death than keeping fit…