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Moderate to vigorous physical activity and risk of upper-respiratory tract infection


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2002 - Volume 34 - Issue 8 - p 1242-1248
CLINCIAL SCIENCES: Clinical Investigations

MATTHEWS, C. E., I. S. OCKENE, P. S. FREEDSON, M. C. ROSAL, P. A. MERRIAM, and J. R. HEBERT. Moderate to vigorous physical activity and risk of upper-respiratory tract infection. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 34, No. 8, pp. 1242–1248, 2002.

Purpose A “J”-shaped model has been proposed to describe the relationship between physical activity and risk of upper-respiratory tract infection (URTI). However, little epidemiologic evidence is available to support the contention that moderately active individuals are at lowest risk of URTI. This investigation examined differences in URTI risk between physically inactive and moderately active adults.

Methods Observational study of 547 healthy adults (49% women) aged 20–70 yr reported URTI events at 90-d intervals over 12-month of follow-up (5 evaluations). Three 24-h physical activity recalls per evaluation were obtained and averaged to quantify total moderate-vigorous activity (≥3.0 metabolic equivalents [MET]). Associations between URTI and physical activity levels were estimated using incidence rate ratios (IRR) derived using Poisson regression while adjusting for a number of potential confounders including age, education, anxiety, cynicism, and selected dietary factors.

Results Men and women reported 1.2 (1.4) and 1.2 (1.2) URTI events per year, respectively (mean [(SD]). Adjusting for gender and potential confounders, the IRR for less than 3.93, 3.94–7.15, 7.16–11.95, and ≥ 11.96 MET-h·d−1 among men, and less than 2.38, 2.39–4.09, 4.10–6.24, and ≥ 6.25 MET-h·d−1 among women, were 1.00 (referent), 0.87 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.70–1.07), 0.88 (95% CI, 0.71–1.09), and 0.77 (95% CI, 0.62–0.95), respectively (Ptrend = 0.03). This effect was stronger in men (Ptrend = 0.03) than women (Ptrend = 0.17), although at similar expenditure levels (6-7 MET-h·d−1), risk was reduced by about 20% in men and women. Risk reduction was most pronounced in the fall of the year (Ptrend = 0.02).

Conclusions These data support the hypothesis that moderate levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk for URTI.

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina, Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health, Columbia, SC; Division of Cardiology and Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA; Department of Exercise Science, University of Massachusetts, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Amherst, MA

Submitted for publication October 2001.

Accepted for publication March 2002.

©2002The American College of Sports Medicine