Daily Exercise Helps Keep the Sniffles Away

Regular exercise can improve your mood, help you lose weight, and add years to your life. Still need another reason to hit the gym? A new study suggests that working out regularly helps ward off colds and flu.

In the study, researchers followed a group of about 1,000 adults of all ages for 12 weeks during the winter and fall of 2008. During that time, people who logged at least 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise—such as jogging, biking, or swimming—on five or more days per week were sick with cold or flu symptoms for just five days, on average, compared to about 8.5 days among people who exercised one day per week or less.

What’s more, regular exercisers tended to have milder symptoms when they were ill. Compared to the people who barely exercised, those who worked out frequently rated their symptoms about 40% less severe overall, according to the study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. (Symptom severity was gauged with a standard questionnaire.)

Exercise is thought to boost the circulation of the virus-fighting white blood cells known as natural killer cells—the “Marine Corps and Army of the immune system,” says the lead author of the study, David Nieman, a professor of health, leisure, and exercise science at Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C. “Exercise gets these cells out…to deal with the enemy.”

The increased immune activity brought on by exercise only lasts for about three hours, but the cumulative effect seems to keep disciplined exercisers healthier than most. “As the days add up, it adds up to improved protection [from] the viruses that can make you sick,” Nieman says.

Endorphins may also play a role, says Len Horovitz, MD, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. These feel-good neurotransmitters—the source of the so-called runner’s high—have “positive effects on the immune system, so it’s not surprising there’s a spike in immune cells,” says Dr. Horovitz, who was not involved in the study.

It’s also possible that people who exercise frequently tend to lead healthy lifestyles in general, and are therefore less likely than couch potatoes to get sick.

Nieman and his colleagues measured a host of factors besides exercise that could potentially affect a person’s susceptibility to cold or flu, including age, gender, diet, stress levels, marital status, smoking, and educational attainment. Of all of these, physical activity was most closely linked to the number of days a person spent sick, although some characteristics, such as being married and eating a lot of fruit, seemed to help protect against colds and flu as well.

“You can’t do much about your age, and you can’t do much about your gender. Here’s something you can really do,” Nieman says. “Exercise is the most powerful weapon that an individual has in their hand to reduce illness days.”

By Amanda Gardner, Health.com November 2010

Is Cold Weather Running Bad for You?

The nip is in the air. Starbucks is serving their pumpkin spice lattes.  What does that mean?  Fall is here and the temperatures are dropping. 

As Chicagoan’s, many of us take our workouts outside during the warm months, not only to enjoy the weather but also to save on cash.   Now that it is getting cooler, most of us are thinking just how cold will we let it go before we move indoors.  Or do we brave it and run outside all year round?

So is their scientific proof that we should run inside when the thermometer dips past a certain temperature?

According to Runner’s World, it is not possible to have your lungs freeze while running outside.  Good news, right?  There have been no studies that show that running in temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius can be fatal to your internal organs.   You can experience painful breathing if you breathe in direct air under -40 Degrees, so it is suggested you filter your breathing through a scarf, or neck warmer.   However, you can cause harm to your extremities when not dressed appropriately for the weather.  Think fingers, ears, toes, frostbite on your face and more. 

Bottom line, if you are willing enough to brave it, running year round isn’t bad for you (unless for medical purposes, or if you have certain medical conditions).  Run away, just make sure you dress warmly for the weather.

Where to Buy Cold Weather Workout Gear in Chicago

Healthy Weekend Happenings

Check out more Chicago healthy events or list yours on Healthy in Chicago’s Healthy Events calendar!

Friday

Octoberfest-Lincoln Avenue and Southport

Great American Dine Out– eat out and help end childhood hunger

presidential Bike Tour

 Saturday

Fleet Feet Fun Run

The Energy Efficient Home

Octoberfest-Lincoln Avenue and Southport

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

Moonlight Dinner Paddle

Randolph Street Market Fest

Chicago Gourmet

Octoberfest-Lincoln Avenue and Southport

Great American Dine Out– eat out and help end childhood hunger

Farmer’s Markets

Sunday

Farmer’s Markets

On Your Mark Pioneer Trail Run

Octoberfest-Lincoln Avenue and Southport

Sunday Salutations with lululemon athletica

Chicago Gourmet

Randolph Street Market Fest

10 Tips for First-Time Half and Full Marathon Runners

Good luck to everyone running the Chicago 1/2 Marathon this Sunday!

Here are Coach Jenny’s from Runner’s World tips to those first-timers.

  1. The number one rule in all of marathon-land (write this one down) is go with what you know and don’t try anything new during your taper, in race week, or race day. I can write this because I’ve made this mistake on numerous occasions. For example, the time I ran the St. George Marathon the week before my wedding and wore a brand spanking new singlet in the race. Guess who had a lovely chafing mark in her wedding photos? Keep it simple and stick with what your body knows–from the foods you eat to the clothes you wear. Every week has been a dress rehearsal for the big dance and it is vital to ignore the nervous voices telling you to buy those new shoes at the expo and wear them on race day. They’re just voices of energy and they’ll subside after the race.
  2. Have faith in your preparation, especially during the taper. Something mystical happens when you begin to taper your mileage to rest up for the race. It’s a little like taking away Linus’s blanket as there is comfort in training because you are actively moving towards your target race. As you reduce the mileage, the nervousness sets in. Remember that tapering allows your body time to rest and accumulate energy at the rate of a slow simmer so that on race day you are fresh and ready to rumble. Review your training log to remind yourself of the base you have going into the race and visualize a strong run during the season. You are well prepared and that is the best insurance against earning that medal.
  3. Watch a running flick. A great way to ease your mind and pump yourself up is to watch a running video. A few of my favorites include Without Limits, Chariots of Fire and the Spirit of the Marathon.  It’s a great way to relax, stay off your feet and keep your mind focused on the task at hand.
  4. Warn your family and friends that you’ll have the stability of a 3-year-old child on race day. I’ve borrowed this line from my husband John Bingham, and it’s true. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, making even the smallest decisions like what to eat and what to wear will feel like life changing moments during race week. Ask your support team for extra patience, because they’ll need it.  Anticipate this temporary state of immaturity and lay out your clothes the night before the race. It helps to try on everything you plan to wear (bib number, chip on shoe…) The more prepared you are the night before, the better.
  5. Get to the Expo early. Walking and standing for hours at the expo trying to decide which top is the cutest can really take it out of your legs (please refer back to tip four where you won’t be able to make small decisions). It’s best to go to the expo at off-peak times on the first day to avoid congestion and spend no more than an hour shopping. Plus, the vendors will have more supplies of all their goodies on the first day!
  6. Wear your race shirt only after you finish. I have a thing about celebrating too soon, and the race shirt to me, is a finisher’s shirt. I once heard an adventure racer say that you get seven years of bad joo-joo if you wear it before you earn it. Just saying…
  7. Review the course map and break it down. If you’re like me, you won’t have to know exactly where to run because you won’t be leading the race, but it does help to have a mental picture of the course and to break it down into smaller, more digestible pieces. There is nothing worse than toeing the line thinking, “only 13.1 miles to go (or 26.2)!” Review it, break it down and run check point to check point on race day. You’ll worry less, and celebrate more along the way.
  8. Invest in your finish line photo. Everyone wants a cool finish line photo, but in order to get it, you’ve got to invest in it. The number one mistake all runners make is going out too fast in the early stages of the race. And that can play havoc on your coolness and suck the life out of your legs early on. I’m an advocate for running negative splits. If you run the first half of the race slightly slower than the second, you have the energy to go fishing in the final miles and pass people (nicely)! And let me tell you, there is nothing more fun and energizing than having the strength and focus to pass people (nicely) in the end! Pace yourself and it will pay off in the long run (pun intended). [Fishing: Picking out a person ahead, say the guy in the red shirt, casting your hook into that fancy red shirt, and reeling him in.)
  9. Run the tangents! It took me several years to learn this nugget of information and I shaved minutes off my time once I did. When a race course is measured (and certified) it follows the tangents to the curves. A tangent is a straight line just outside the curve (or as close to the curve while still on the road). For example, Sandra the runner sees a curve on the course and runs a straight line (tangent to) the inside of the curve. Beth (who is not paying attention and didn’t read this blog) follows the curve in the road.  Curve for curve, Beth will end up running more mileage in the end. Sandra will run the measured 13.1 miles (and be showered  before Beth finishes). This will help you in two very important ways:  One, it keeps your mind actively engaged in running the course as you think your way through every turn.  Two, you’ll run only 13.1 miles! You can add more than a quarter-mile to the course by taking the long way around turns! Stay focused, grasshopper, and set yourself up efficiently as you wind through the course.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the journey. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into training for your first race, the least you can do is enjoy yourself along the way. There are no style points awarded on race day and it isn’t a final exam. You’ve trained hard, you’re well prepared, and race day is truly about the celebration. Soak up the excitement of the crowd and take it all in because you only run your first half marathon once and it’s a special moment.

Source: Runner’s Word

Take it to the Lakefront! Tips on working out on the lake

In the summer, we are blessed as Chicagoans to have nice weather, and the beauty of Lake Michigan.  Many take their workouts outside along the lakefront; running, biking, walking, skating, or swimming.  The paths are a great place to train for a race or just sweat for fun, but they can also be hazardous if you aren’t careful or following the rules of the road. 

The Path

Chicago’s paved lakefront path is 18 miles and runs from Hollywood Avenue to 71st street.  It has clear mile markers as well as bathrooms and water fountains.  The complete lakefront map can be found HERE

Tips

  • If you are jogging or walking, stay all the way to the right of the yellow line on your side of the path, allowing for others moving faster to pass you.
  • If you are passing someone either running, biking or skating, be considerate and give them a heads up.  You may feel weird at first,  but it is  better than getting in an accident when they decide to cut left.
  • Don’t exit or spit until you look for someone behind you!
  • If you are looking to get in a serious workout, plan to be on the path during the slower times of the day.  Early morning (before 10am) for example when tourists aren’t also out walking along the lake. 
  • Follow the rules of the road and use common sense.  The speed bumps are there for a reason, as are the slow zones. 
  • Be patient.  The lakefront is a great place to workout, thus many people want to be there.  Bikers, runners, walkers and tourists all have the right to enjoy the paths. 

  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Just like on a real road, you never know what could happen.  A dog running across the path, a roller blader falling, or a tourist taking a picture.  There has been increased crime on the lakefront this summer.  Be smart and don’t run alone at night.
  • If listening to music, keep it low enough to hear what is going on around you (someone passing, yelling because they are falling, etc).
  • If walking your dog, keep them on a short leash so they don’t get in the way of another person’s path.

Bottom line: Enjoy! Take advantage of all that our city has to offer and take your workout to the paths.  Just make sure to be aware and considerate of others doing the same.

Mix up your training

It is that time of year when runners are out training for upcoming races.  With the many 1/2 marathons, marathons, 5Ks and more to choose from,  training can get boring.  Mix it up and enjoy your training experience! 

Tips to keep you fired up while you train.

  • Set goals for training and for the race.  Goals will help keep you motivated and moving.  Aim for setting weekly goals and reward yourself when you achieve them.
  • Pick a training program that works for you.  There are many out there, but make sure you don’t push yourself too hard-especially if it is your first race.  Find a program that works with your schedule, and that you enjoy.
  • Prevent injuries. It is important to work on prevention of injuries from the first day you begin training.  Stretch, strength train, don’t push yourself too hard and exercise in proper shoes.  If you are in pain, ease up on the training so it doesn’t get worse.  (for more on proper running shoes see Athletic Shoes)
  • Cross-train every week.  This means doing an activity that isn’t running or walking. Swim, take a class, lift weights.  These workouts will help your body recover and improve your overall fitness by providing variety.
  • Eat right! If you don’t add proper fuel to your body while you are training, you are negating the effects.  Eat a balance of carbs, protein and fats each day.  Start feeling out what works for your body before and after a run so you know what to eat the day of and before the race.
  • Have fun!  Training is supposed to be fun, not a chore or another job.   It is normal to have off/bad days, but keep a positive attitude and enjoy the training experience!

Do you have training tips to share? 

Check in next week for a Chicagoan’s account of training for her first 1/2 marathon

Sources: InformIT, Mayo Clinic