Exercise is “the single most important thing you can do to reduce sick days,” says David Nieman, DrPH, director of the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University.
Although scientists aren’t really sure why, research suggests that consistent exercise gives your immune system a boost. It might be that moderate heart-pumping workouts spark a rise in the germ-fighting cells in your body -- or that they lower stress hormones that can dampen your body's defenses.
You don’t have to live at the gym to get these perks, either. “People who exercise for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week have a 46% reduction in the number of days of illness compared with those who didn’t exercise,” Nieman says.
Can’t carve out a half-hour or longer block in your day? Divvy your exercise up into shorter sessions. “As long as each activity is at least 10 minutes you’ll reap the benefits,” Nieman says.
Kelly Baez, a health and weight-loss coach in Columbus, GA, claims she never gets sick. Part of her stay-healthy MO? The stash of hand sanitizer she keeps in her gym bag to use between hand-washings.
And for good reason: Your fingertips are home to some serious bacteria, and research suggests you touch your face -- mouth, eyes, nose -- about 16 times an hour. To keep those germs at bay, wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, the CDC says. Hand sanitizer doesn’t get rid of germs as well as a good handwashing does, but formulas with at least 60% alcohol can kill some of them until you can get to a sink.