The effect of exercise on prevention of the common cold: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trial studies

Korean J Fam Med. 2014 May;35(3):119-26. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.2014.35.3.119. Epub 2014 May 22.


Background: Because there is no specific treatment for the common cold, many previous studies have focused on prevention of the common cold. There were some studies reporting that regular, moderate-intensity exercise increases immunity and prevents the common cold. We conducted a meta-analysis to determine the effects of exercise on prevention of the common cold.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), CINAHL for studies released through June 2013. We manually searched the references. Two authors independently extracted the data. To assess the risk of bias of included literature, Cochrane Collaboration's tool for assessing risk of bias was used. Review Manager ver. 5.2 (RevMan, Cochrane Collaboration) was used for statistical analysis.

Results: Four randomized controlled trials were identified. A total of 281 participants, 134 in the exercise group and 147 in the control group, were included. The effect of exercise on the prevention of the common cold had a relative risk (RR) of 0.73 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.56 to 0.95; I(2) = 7%). The mean difference of mean illness days between exercise group and control group was -3.50 (95% CI, -6.06 to -0.94; I(2) = 93%). In the subgroup analysis, the RR of under 16 weeks exercise was 0.79 (95% CI, 0.58 to 1.08).

Conclusion: In this meta-analysis, regular, moderate-intensity exercise may have an effect on the prevention of the common cold. But numbers of included studies and participants were too small and quality of included studies was relatively poor. Subsequent well-designed studies with larger sample size are needed to clarify the association.

Keywords: Common Cold; Exercise; Meta-Analysis; Prevention.