The Role of Fitness In The Prevention of Illness

Get Fit, Stay Healthy

You already know that getting and staying fit helps you look and feel better. But fitness is not just about having a six-pack and looking good at the beach. Staying fit can also prevent illness and improve your overall quality of life.

Fitness can play a role in the prevention of both sudden illness and chronic health conditions. Most people already know that getting regular cardiovascular exercise, such as running or biking can improve their heart health and dramatically decrease their chance of obesity and diabetes. But exercise and fitness can also have less obvious health benefits including decreasing your chances of getting certain infections and illnesses, such as the flu or a common cold.

Several research studies have been done including one by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which indicates that people who exercise moderately for two and half hours a week were less likely to develop cold and flu symptoms then those who were sedentary.

The research also indicated that the fitter a person was, the more likely they were able to fight off the flu by boosting their body’s defences against such viruses. Of course, exercise is not the only factor in illness prevention and is not foolproof, but it’s a good start.

There are several reasons why exercise and staying fit may decrease illnesses and infections. For example, exercise improves circulation including circulating white blood cells that fight infection. This increased circulation may help improve how well the cells fight infection. Exercise may also increase the production of macrophages, which are the cells that kill bacteria.

Your body temperature also rises when you exercise, which may prevent bacteria from growing and making you sick. Let’s not forget, too much stress is thought to make you more susceptible to certain illnesses. Exercise can decrease stress hormones, which in turn may help you fight illness more effectively.

The Ripple Effect

Exercise and eating well can have a ripple effect on your health and your health can affect all areas of your life from relationships to employment. Although fitness is only one component of a disease prevention program, it seems to be an important one.

Various body systems are interconnected. When you exercise and get fit, you’re not only affecting one system, you’re decreasing your risk of certain diseases. For instance, if you have high blood pressure, your heart is working harder, and you’re at an increased risk of conditions, such as a heart attack or stroke. Getting fit, helps lower blood pressure, which in turn decreases your risk of a stroke.

Additionally, being overweight can put you at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Getting regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, thus decreasing your chances of such conditions.

When it comes to disease and illness prevention, there are certain factors you cannot control, such as your age and genetics. But making fitness a priority and exercise a regular part of your life is one way you can take charge of your health.

When Enough is Enough?

Although moderate exercise several times a week has been linked to illness prevention; it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. Vigorous training, such as performing high-intensity endurance workouts for more than 90 minutes each day, may temporarily lower your immune system. Although this may not apply to the average fitness enthusiast, extreme endurance athletes such as marathon runners and triathletes may need to take a few precautions. Experts recommend taking a day of recovery between intense workouts to give your body including your immune system a chance to recover.


Author: MaryAnn DePietro
Author Bio: A health and fitness writer with 13 years’ experience, MaryAnn has been extensively published in magazines, newspapers and websites. Her work has appeared on websites, such as Healthline, Symptom Find, Livestrong and Modern Moms. MaryAnn earned degrees in both respiratory therapy at American River College in Sacramento and rehabilitation education at Penn State University. MaryAnn lives in northern California where she trains for 10K marathons, plays golf and hangs out with her husband and son.