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Exercise: Nothing to Sneeze At

Exercise: Nothing to Sneeze At

With autumn officially here, we become more prone to colds, coughs, sneezes, sniffles, runny noses, and sore throats that will make us feel miserable through the winter months.

"As seasons and weather change, our immune system becomes more vulnerable and less resistant to various infections," says Sandy Liebman, owner of Glendale/LA Adventure Boot Camp & 30 Minute Express Boot Camp in Glendale, Calif.

Fortunately, finding ways to bolster your immune system is not exactly rocket science.

"The good news is that something as simple as regular exercise can keep all those pesky viruses, germs and bacteria at bay," Liebman says. "Among many other benefits of physical exercise is that it is a great immunity booster."

In fact, research cited by the American College of Sports Medicine, a leading organization in sports medicine and exercise science, shows that regular exercise can help boost the immune system by either stopping viruses in their tracks before they attack us or by reducing the duration of cold symptoms by half as compared to those who do not exercise.

These findings are borne out by various studies demonstrating that regular exercise produces macrophages, the cells that defend the body against bacteria.

"During a moderate workout, these cells circulate through the body, killing viruses and bacteria," Liebman notes. "And although the immune system returns to its pre-exercise levels very quickly, each workout session appears to reduce the risk of infection over the long term."

That may explain why -- as studies indicate -- people who work out regularly report fewer colds than nonexercisers.

"Certainly, exercise is not a cure-all for whatever ails you, and even the most ardent fitness aficionados will get sick once in a while," Liebman says. "However, there is all this compelling evidence suggesting that exercise may lower your risks of common infections."

Now that you know just how beneficial regular workouts can be for your immune system, what kind of fitness regimen should you choose?

"Luckily, exercises that are most effective in strengthening the immune system are also those that are great for your heart, weight control, and your health in general, so it's a 'win-win' situation," Liebman says. "Boot camps are really terrific because they focus on the entire body as well as on core and cardiovascular fitness, balance, strength and agility."

And since boot camp workouts are fun and varied, there is less risk of getting bored than with a regimen that is either monotonous or depends heavily on gym equipment.

"If boosting your immune system - and health in general - is your goal, then you certainly shouldn't choose a fitness routine that will get you into a rut and will make you want to give up," Liebman advises. "The point is to make exercising so enjoyable that you will want to continue. And boot camps do just that."

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