The Hidden Benefits of Exercise

Even Moderate Physical Activity Can Boost the Immune System and Protect Against Chronic Diseases

The Wall Street Journal—New York, NY—January 5, 2010

As millions of Americans flock to the gym armed with New Year's resolutions to get in shape, medical experts are offering an additional reason to exercise: Regular workouts may help fight off colds and flu, reduce the risk of certain cancers and chronic diseases and slow the process of aging.

Physical activity has long been known to bestow such benefits as helping to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress, not to mention tightening those abs. Now, a growing body of research is showing that regular exercise—as simple as a brisk 30- to 45-minute walk five times a week—can boost the body's immune system, increasing the circulation of natural killer cells that fight off viruses and bacteria. And exercise has been shown to improve the body's response to the influenza vaccine, making it more effective at keeping the virus at bay.

Lisa Callahan, co-director of the Women's Sports Medicine Center at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery, says her patients are often only partially aware of the benefits of exercise.

They may know that it is helpful in reducing their risk of osteoporosis, for example, but they usually don't know that a combination of strength training, aerobic exercise and balance training is most effective at staving off the disease, says Dr. Callahan, who is the author of "The Fitness Factor," a guide for women.

Read the full story at wsj.com.

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