Meditation, exercise could help prevent flu, study finds

People who regularly practice meditation or exercise reduce their risk of catching the common cold and the flu, according to a recent study reported by the Wisconsin State Journal.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison divided 390 adults — all of whom received a flu shot — into three groups: one that participated in an eight-week meditation class, one that participated in an eight-week exercise class and one that did neither. The researchers measured the number of respiratory infection episodes and missed days of work participants in each group reported from fall to spring. The study was conducted from 2012 to 2016.

Here are the results, which were published in PLOS One in June:

  • Meditation group: 112 respiratory infection episodes, 73 missed days of work
  • Exercise group: 120 respiratory infection episodes, 82 missed days of work
  • Control group: 134 respiratory infection episodes, 105 missed days of work

These indicators, combined with the length of illness and number of healthcare visits, suggested the meditation group was 17 percent healthier than the control group. The exercise group was 15 percent healthier.

"More research into the benefits of exercise and meditation is warranted, maybe in higher-risk or sicker populations, where there are more health benefits to gain," Bruce Barrett, MD, PhD, a UW Health family medicine physician and lead author of the study, wrote in the study.

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control:

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