It’s easy to take a healthy immune system for granted in the warm days of summer, but it’s never too early to start preparing for the cold and flu season. All of rituals and remedies we start practicing when we feel that first tickle in the nose or throat may not stack up to preventative doses of exercise and meditation. A recent study conducted by Dr. Bruce Barrett at the University of Wisconsin is the first to positively link an intervention to a reduction in incidence of acute respiratory infections (ARIs). Both interventions—meditation and exercise—practiced before cold and flu season set in, showed a statistically significant improvement in winter health.
The randomized trial of 149 adults divided subjects into three groups during the eight-week intervention period. One group practiced mindfulness meditation, one group exercised, and the final served as a control group. Participants were then observed during the cold and flu season for typical symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, stuffiness, and sneezing.
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The group that practiced meditation had only 27 ARI episodes, which totaled 257 days of illness, while the control group had 40 ARI episodes for a total of 453 illness days. The exercise group fared even better than the meditation group, with 26 ARIs and 241 days of illness. According to Dr. Barrett, “nothing has previously been shown to prevent ARI.” Dr. Barrett is hopeful that these results can be replicated in future studies and that they will have a substantive impact on how we approach cold and flu prevention.
If the thought of fewer sick days isn’t enough to motivate you to start a meditation practice or exercise practice, think of the other potential side effects—improved ability to focus and handle stress, lower blood pressure, and improved brain function and pain tolerance, to name a few. Now if only there was a way to practice exercise and meditation at the same time…
Have you noticed an improvement in your immune system after beginning a regular meditation or yoga/exercise practice?