Moderate-intensity exercise reduces the incidence of colds among postmenopausal women

Am J Med. 2006 Nov;119(11):937-42. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.06.033.


Purpose: Our aim was to assess the effect of a moderate-intensity, year-long exercise program on the risk of colds and other upper respiratory tract infections in postmenopausal women.

Subjects: A total of 115 overweight and obese, sedentary, postmenopausal women in the Seattle area participated.

Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to the moderate-intensity exercise group or the control group. The intervention consisted of 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days per week for 12 months. Control participants attended once-weekly, 45-minute stretching sessions. Questionnaires asking about upper respiratory tract infections in the previous 3 months were administered quarterly during the course of the year-long trial. Poisson regression was used to estimate the effect of exercise on colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.

Results: Over 12 months, the risk of colds decreased in exercisers relative to stretchers (P = .02): In the final 3 months of the study, the risk of colds in stretchers was more than threefold that of exercisers (P = .03). Risk of upper respiratory tract infections overall did not differ (P = .16), yet may have been biased by differential proportions of influenza vaccinations in the intervention and control groups.

Conclusions: This study suggests that 1 year of moderate-intensity exercise training can reduce the incidence of colds among postmenopausal women. These findings are of public health relevance and add a new facet to the growing literature on the health benefits of moderate exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Common Cold / epidemiology*
  • Common Cold / prevention & control*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Overweight
  • Postmenopause*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Washington / epidemiology


  • Influenza Vaccines