The mercury is falling, but raising your body temperature will do more than ward off the cold. It could save your life.
Those battling colds and flus know the comfort of wrapping up in duvets with hot water bottles while their immune system wages war. Raising the body's temperature on a regular basis can help prevent such illnesses taking their toll in the first place, with exercise being an ideal way of doing so.
Researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute have found that a higher body temperature can help our immune systems to work better and harder against infected cells. Viruses prefer a cold environment, the cooler temperature creating a happy home for viruses and chronic illnesses to multiply and take hold. A warm body, on the other hand, is a war zone, our white blood cells furiously impeding the viruses' ability to replicate.
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So, if you want to ward off the office bug, scarves and hand sanitizer will only get you so far. The real remedy lies in lacing up your trainers and being in active in the gym or in the great outdoors.
I'm burning up
A normal core body temperature is about 37°C. During exercise, your temperature can rise to around 40°C. This is because muscle heat production increases 15 to 20 times above resting levels during a vigorous workout, which, in turn, warms the blood that circulates through the muscles. Furthermore, in creating the energy needed to continue the workout, even more heat is released.
Bigger muscles or a smaller waist may be your goal, but a stronger immune system is one of the best results from a regular fitness routine. Achieving it is also far more rewarding and pleasurable than the body's natural line of defense: a fever.
You give me fever
Anyone who has suffered through the misery of a fever will appreciate it is the body's rigorous and violent assault on sickness. Raising the body's high temperature stops the telomeres on the ends of the virus from allowing any viral replication, as well as helping to clear up toxic bacterial waste products in the body.
"Could it be that the ever-growing number of people developing cancer are doing so because, nowadays, we have fewer infections and, therefore, fewer fevers?" Telegraph columnist Judith Potts has posed. "Does this mean that the immunisation program, antibiotics and better hygiene have created the cancer monster?"
A chilling thought
It is an intriguing question, and a number of research studies give it credence. Just as a warm body is hostile territory for viruses to conquer, a cold body can be fertile ground for cancer to grow and spread faster. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2013 found a cold environment suppresses the anti-tumor immune response.
"Low body temperature is the plague of the 21st century," states Dr. David Jernigan of the Hansa Center for Optimum Health. "The problem with a low core temperature is that no effective immune response can be mounted therefore no fever is generated and infections go undetected."
When the body is in a warm environment, far more white blood cells secrete anti-cancer substances. Interestingly, a number of US cancer practices have had successful results destroying cancer cells with heat treatments.
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This is a roundabout way of saying that raising the body's temperature can have a significant impact on helping to prevent not just the common cold but potentially life-threatening illnesses. To be able to do so simply through regular exercise, be it an hour with a personal trainer or a 15-minute blast of high intensity interval training in your front room, means it is an option available to all.
Fitness doesn't always have to be motivated by having the biggest biceps on the beach or an Instagram-worthy thigh gap. It can be about having a healthy, functional body that lets us enjoy life, all year round.
Doesn't that give you a warm feeling inside?