With the raging storms and their accompanying floods and the more mundane rain showers during the monsoon season comes chill weather that’s perfect for catching a cold or even the flu. And having so many people work side by side in the cool dry environment of air conditioned offices doesn’t help, either. So people come down with the flu, other people catch it, and, before you know it, half your office is out on sick leave. Or maybe you’re the one on sick leave. And while it might be nice to laze about at home on an ordinary day, it’s not so nice when you’re miserable because your eyes are watery, your nose is stuffy, and your head just won’t stop pounding. Is there anything you can do to ease the symptoms?

Yes, there is. A small study published recently in the Annals of Family Medicine suggests that meditation and exercise may be the key to keeping yourself healthy while others around you fall ill and to feeling sick for fewer days when you’ve caught a respiratory infection like a cold or the flu, Reuters.com reports.

Researchers studied 149 people, whom they randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first group took an eight-week mindfulness meditation program, the second participated in an eight-week aerobic exercise program, and the third got no special training. Following the eight-week training period, researchers surveyed the people in each of the three groups to find out how many of them got sick during the flu season. Forty cases were reported in the group who didn’t get any special instruction, 26 in the group who received aerobic exercise training, and 27 in the group who engaged in meditation. Those in the two groups with special training felt sick for an average of five days, while those in the passive group reported feeling sick for an average of nine days. Also, the meditation group reported the fewest symptoms.

“The only preventive things that we have at our disposal right now (for colds) are hand washing and avoiding sick contacts,” Dr. Bruce Barrett of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, lead author of the study, is quoted as saying on Reuters.com. But if the findings of this study can be replicated in a bigger sample group, this could go a long way toward helping people build a stronger defense against the respiratory illnesses that affect so many people every year.

And while additional research still needs to be done to confirm these findings, regular exercise and meditation have been associated with enough health benefits over the years (with no ill effects, when done correctly), so why not give it a shot? At the very least, you’ll end up with a calmer, happier, healthier you, and that alone may help stave off illness.

(Photo by lululemon athletica via Flickr Creative Commons)

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