Lack of sleep, stress, not washing your hands, going out the door with damp hair (according to my Mum at least). The common thread? Things that can make you sick.
Now add working out to that list.
Yep, according to researchers at Australia’s Griffith University, elite athletes may be more susceptible to harmful pathogens than their couch potato counterparts.
For the study, the researchers compared levels of the salivary proteins lactoferrin and lysozyme—which are thought to prevent microbes from infecting the body and serve as a measure of the body’s immune response—in elite rowers and sedentary individuals. Across the five-month study period, the researchers determined that exercise significantly reduces lactoferrin concentration, leaving the body more susceptible to infection.
Theoretically, exercise is a stress on the body and leads to greater susceptibility to illness. The decrease in salivary proteins, one of the body’s first lines of defense against infection, may help explain this.
However, in a second study comparing the salivary protein concentration of rowers during various forms of exercise and at rest, it was determined that proteins—and therefore immune response—spiked immediately following exercise.
While this study certainly shouldn’t be considered a get-out-of-jail-free card for ditching your new year’s resolution (and diving head first into a bag of Doritos), it might be worthwhile to consider laying off the treadmill if everyone around you is falling ill with the flu.
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