Sunday, November 14, 2010

Runners Stay Healthy - Tips to Prevent the Cold

The other morning, I woke up to a story on NPR about why some people struggle to fight off the cold. Ron Turner, a cold researcher at the University of Virginia said that 30% of people in a household will develop the cold or another infection. Well, at my house I am that 30%. Being sick interferes with all types of activities we take for granted … especially running.

So, what advice did the experts have to offer for staying healthy?

20 Minutes of Exercise 5 or More Days a Week
Studies on the link between exercise and illness found that those who exercised for 20 minutes 5 or more days a week experienced fewer sick days than people who exercised less often. While researchers aren’t certain how exactly exercise helps fend off the cold, they believe aerobic activity energizes immune cells to fight off infection.

Eight Is the Magic Number
What about sleep? Well, if you happen to get less than 7 hours of sleep a night you’re almost 3 times more likely to get sick compared to people who get at least 8 hours of sleep.

Don’t Let Stress Triggers Trip You Up
Not surprisingly, long durations of stress have an overall impact on our body’s ability to fight off infection. Essentially, stress wears the body down. As a working parent, it can be hard to avoid the daily challenges of life – but like a lot of runners, a good 4 to 5 miler helps keep me mentally balanced.

What About Food?
While the NPR story didn’t mention the role of food, the latest issue of Runner’s World offers tips on foods that power your immune system. Not surprisingly, chicken soup and citrus were on the list. Here are a few other foods that were praised for their benefits:

· Yogurt – probiotic lactobacillus which is found in yogurt seems to help reduce the severity of respiratory illness
· Slow-cooked beef stews – the iron from the meat is a great trigger for producing red blood cells
· Baked potatoes – white potatoes offer a good dose of vitamin C while sweet potatoes provide vitamin A – both of which boost your immune system
· Onions and garlic – both contain antimicrobial properties, which may help protect your body from illness

This week’s route is courtesy of the Undy 5000 5K. Over the weekend, runners hit the streets of Decatur -- some in their undies -- to build awareness for colon cancer as part of this nationwide racing event. Enjoy!

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