Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Do runners get fewer colds?

Posted by speedygeoff on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 with 2 comments
Yes. In this post I will focus on what happens with the immune system. Running helps the immune system fight off bacterial and viral infections. And running very likely decreases the incidence of illnesses such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.

How does running help the immune system function better?
(a) a rise in body temperature helps the body fight infection more effectively - as happens with a fever!
(b) an increase in respiration clears rubbish out of the lungs, reducing the incidence of air-born illness. That "400m cough" could be good for you!
(c) waste products (urine, sweat) are flushed from the body more rapidly; better out than in, especially if carcinogens are amongst the waste being flushed.
(d) blood circulation is improved; antibodies circulate better and reach sites of potential illness earlier; and the increased circulation of blood has other benefits such as the triggering the release of hormones essential to the proper operation of the immune system.
(e) There are also stress-relate hormones whose release is suppressed by running.

So even if you have a lean and trim body; one without the excess fat stores seen in most members of our lazy society; your immune system will thank you if you continue to run and/or do other physical exercise daily.

Can over-training cancel out these benefits?
Yes. Heavier training loads do not result in extra benefits, as far as the immune system is concerned. There is a point beyond which fewer white blood cells circulate in the body, and the number of stress related hormones increases.
(a) I always came down with a cold after racing a marathon. Even for a highly conditioned athlete, the stress of a marathon run flat out is too much.
(b) But I never came down with a cold because of my fairly intense marathon training. That is because the training was carefully planned with a sufficient number of easy days after the longest runs and after races.
(c) New starters need to understand that it takes time for the body to adapt to running programs, and should never attempt to copy the programs of seasoned runners, particularly in the early days of their training. Build up gradually conservatively doing less than you think is possible, and allow the body to adapt over time. Patience is a virtue when it comes to health and fitness. And a good base is essential if permanent improvement down the track is to occur.

We know exercise is good for us because we feel better during and after exercise. And it is good for us. Go on, run with it! You will never look back.

Monday training
Canberra Day: The early starters for an 8k run were Andrew, Craig, Ewen, me, Jennifer, Ruth, Yelena, and new starters David and Liz. Then we were joined at 5:30pm by Bronwyn, Caroline, Garry, Joel, Katherine, Neil, Noeline, Penny, and more new starters Geoff 2, John, and Karen. Twenty participants on a public holiday is pretty good. We ran 12 intervals of 40 seconds each (two sets of "6 on 2 minutes"), a good session on a day when it had been raining quite heavily earlier on.

Melanie Tait book signing
BE THERE and support her! Wednesday, 6pm at Daltons in Civic. We will be running then and we might just drop in in our running gear! The first speedygoose to have written a book!

Thanks Craig
Craig did both sessions at training yesterday. His presence and that of three others may have saved my life too but that is another story.


  1. Good idea - I reckon we can get to Civic from PH in 12 minutes. Sweated-on copies can go for half price ;)

  2. That 'other story' was a good one. Being able to run comes in handy at times!