How much you exercise can impact flu and pneumonia risk, study finds

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It’s time to add to your list of reasons to train: may help prevent the risk of death from flu and pneumonia, new research suggests.

According to a study published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, meeting physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities reduces the risk of dying from flu and pneumonia by 48%.

Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity and two or more days of moderate muscle-strengthening activities per week, according to Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the US Department of Health and Human Services. social.

The study drew on survey data from more than 570,000 people from the US National Health Survey between 1998 and 2018. People were asked about their physical activity habits and they were ranked into groups based on their ability to meet the recommended amount of exercise. , according to the study.

On average, respondents were followed for nine years after the initial survey. There were 1,516 deaths from influenza or pneumonia during this time.

According to the study, meeting both aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening recommendations nearly halved the risk associated with influenza or death from pneumonia, but meeting only the aerobic activity goal was associated with a 36% lower risk.

Influenza and pneumonia are among the leading causes of death in the United States and around the world, so the results are significant, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Bryant Webber, an epidemiologist with the Division of nutrition, physics from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. activity and obesity.

“Readers can appreciate the importance of vaccination against influenza and pneumococcal disease. This study might encourage them to think that physical activity can be another powerful tool to protect against influenza and death from pneumonia,” he said.

The findings make sense given existing knowledge and the benefits may extend to other conditions, said Dr. Robert Sallis, sports medicine fellowship director at Kaiser Permanente Fontana. Medical Center and Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in California. He did not participate in the study.

“This study is also consistent with the various studies showing that regular exercise significantly reduced the risk of death from COVID-19 in the same way,” Sallis said in an email.

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Even a little exercise showed benefits in protecting against influenza and death from pneumonia, according to the study.

But even if you can’t reach the recommended amount, some activities may still provide more protection than none, according to the study.

“We also found that any level of aerobic physical activity, even at levels below the recommended level, reduced the risk of death from influenza and pneumonia, compared to no aerobic activity,” Webber said.

Get 10 149 minutes per week of aerobic physical activity was associated with a 21% lower risk of death from flu and pneumonia, the study showed.

“Our overriding advice for everyone — regardless of age or perceived fitness level — is to ‘move more and sit less,'” Webber said in an email. “Readers who don’t do any physical activity should be encouraged to say that doing any is better than doing nothing.”

That being said, no additional benefit was seen for people who did more than 600 minutes of aerobic activity per week, the study showed.

And in the case of muscle building, there’s too much, the study showed.

Achieving the goal of two or more sessions significantly reduced the risk of death, but seven or more sessions were associated with a 41% increased risk of death from flu or pneumonia, the study showed.

However, this was an observational study, the researchers noted, which means the study cannot make claims about what causes or prevents deaths – just which factors were associated with a level. of risk.

The increased risk could be linked to a range of factors, including the cardiovascular impacts of frequent muscle-strengthening activities or inaccurate survey responses, according to the study.

Even though there are limitations in the design, researchers often rely on these studies when it’s not possible to randomize people to different lifestyles, Sallis said.

According to the study, aerobic activity — or cardio, as it’s often called — doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym regularly. This type of movement is anything that gets your heart rate and sweat glands going, including brisk walking, swimming, biking, running, or climbing stairs.

Exercises such as lifting weights, squats, lunges or even heavy gardening can count as your muscle-building activity, the study added.

A mega study published in December 2021 showed that the best exercise programs include planning when you workout, getting reminders, offering incentives, and discouraging missing more than one planned workout at the following.

“If people are hoping to increase their physical activity or change their health behaviors, there is behavioral information at very low cost that can be incorporated into programs to help them be more successful,” said the study’s lead author, Katy Milkman, James G. Dinan Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of “How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be”.

You can start small, said Dana Santas, CNN fitness contributor and mind-body coach for professional athletes, in a 2022 CNN article.

“Exercising ten minutes every day is so much easier than people think. Consider how quickly ten minutes go by when you mindlessly scroll through social media or watch your favorite TV show,” Santas said in a “It’s not a big time investment, but it can have great health benefits.”

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