The basic cardio exercises that could cut your risk of dying from flu

Going for a run may actually help to stop you from catching your death of cold, a study has suggested.

Scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that regular cardio such as a jog, swim or cycle could lower the risk of dying from influenza infection – and working out in the gym may be able to help too.

The NHS recommends that adults perform “moderate intensity” exercise for 150 minutes a week, or vigorous activity for 75 minutes a week.

Experts also recommend adults work out to build up muscle strength twice weekly.

Simply walking up the stairs, going for a swim or skipping can be counted as “vigorous” activity, while going to the gym and more strenuous forms of movement also reach the threshold, according to the health service.

Benefits of hitting cardio targets

Data from more than 570,000 people in a 20-year study run in the US looked at if people who exercised more regularly were less likely to die from influenza and pneumonia.

Over the study period, a total of 1,516 people died of flu, but people who hit the cardio targets were 36 per cent less likely to succumb to the virus.

People who hit their cardio targets, as well as their weightlifting goals, were 48 per cent less likely to die of flu, data show. However, lifting weights regularly but not doing cardio did not improve the odds compared to someone doing no exercise.

Even exercising below the nationally recommended standards could help reduce a person’s risk of dying from flu or pneumonia, the scientists said.

Recommended periods for cardio

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that those who managed between 10 and 149 minutes of cardio a week were found to have a 21 per cent reduced risk compared with those who did no exercise at all.

However, they also found that people who performed muscle-strengthening activities seven times a week or more actually had a 41 per cent increased risk.

“Aerobic physical activity, even at quantities below the recommended level, may be associated with lower influenza and pneumonia mortality,” the authors wrote.

“Two episodes a week of muscle-strengthening activity was associated with lower risk of influenza and pneumonia mortality, whereas seven or more episodes per week was associated with higher risk.”

Risks of excessive weightlifting

The researchers are unable to discern from the data exactly why cardio may be beneficial, and why excessive weightlifting may be detrimental.

It is “beyond the scope of this study”, they wrote, but said weightlifters could suffer from some cardiovascular issues caused by “frequent, high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity”.

“Efforts to reduce influenza and pneumonia mortality among adults might focus on decreasing the prevalence of aerobic inactivity and increasing the prevalence of achieving two episodes/week of muscle-strengthening activity,” they added.

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