Doctor’s Tip: Get sick a lot? Exercise, but not too much |

Doctor’s Tip: Get sick a lot? Exercise, but not too much

Dr. Greg Feinsinger
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Modest exercise improves immune function. Michael Greger, M.D. ( cites recent studies that show that when sedentary women start walking briskly every day, their rate of infections such as colds decreases by 50 percent. This positive effect even occurs in people who just exercise for 30 minutes three times a week.

Exercise as we age prevents age-related loss of immunity. At least part of the reason exercise improves immunity is that IgA levels increase. This is an antibody present in the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat and eyes, and is the first line of defense against respiratory viruses.

However, there can be too much of a good thing. People who engage in prolonged, intense exercise such as training for and running a marathon, have more respiratory and other illnesses than do moderate exercisers and even more than people who don’t exercise.

We’ve all heard of athletes who train for the Olympics for example, who end up with a respiratory infection by the time they perform, so they aren’t at their best. And infections are common after running a marathon. This appears to be due to a decrease in IgA, among other things.

Athletic coaches and trainers are of course aware of this and are concerned. It has been shown that a teaspoon a day of nutritional yeast (available in grocery stores) can help prevent loss of immune function in heavy exercisers, as can a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains (read “Eat and Run,” by Scott Jurek, a famous ultramarathoner).

Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at

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