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Exercising Illness

September 23, 2010

A listener asks: can exercise stave off illness?


Exercising illness…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener John Davidson, of Vienna, Virginia, called in with this question:

I have heard that when you start to get sick it is possible to exercise vigorously to raise your body temperature which simulates fever which can sometimes help your body fight off incoming infection. Is there any truth to that?

We consulted infectious disease specialist William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He says there’s some evidence that exercise offers at least a modest benefit, but it’s not because it raises your body temperature.

When you’re being vigorous, your adrenalin goes up, and constricts blood vessels and that will open up some of your nasal passages and your symptoms tend to improve.

He adds that exercising also gives the immune system a boost. And if you have a science question, give us a call at 1-800-why-isit. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.