08 July, 2011
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At Healthfully, we strive to deliver objective content that is accurate and up-to-date. Our team periodically reviews articles in order to ensure content quality. The sources cited below consist of evidence from peer-reviewed journals, prominent medical organizations, academic associations, and government data.
- National Institute on Aging; Shingles; June 2009
- National Institutes of Health; Tai Chi Boosts Immunity to Shingles Virus in Older Adults, NIH-Sponsored Study Reports; April 2007
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Does Physical Exercise Affect Shingles?
Physical exercise can affect shingles. Like any viral infection, regular physical activity can go a long way to improving symptoms associated with this condition. Exercise can enhance the body’s immune response, which can improve the immune system’s ability to fight the infection, thereby helping you feel better.
Shingles is a skin rash that develops as a result of the varicella-zoster virus, the pathogen that causes chickenpox. After an infection, the virus goes dormant. Later in life, it can reactivate. But instead of getting chickenpox again, you develop a blistering skin rash, usually in a band running from the middle of your chest to your back.
It’s still unclear why the virus reactivates, but researchers believe it’s linked to a lowered immune system. As you get older, your body’s immune response tends to weaken, making you much more susceptible to infection. As a result, the virus is thought to reactivate, leading to the rash and other symptoms associated with this condition.
Since exercise can do wonders for the immune system, most medical professionals will tell you to get regular exercise as a way of improving your ability to fight off disease and infection. The same holds true for shingles. In fact, the National Institute on Aging recommends exercise, particularly simple or leisurely pursuits, to improve symptoms of the condition. Walking is probably one of the more accessible forms of exercise, but you can also take part in other activities you enjoy. Just talk to your doctor to determine what’s best for you and your condition.
Following along the same lines as simple or leisurely exercise, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that tai chi may prevent older adults from ever getting shingles. After a 16-week program, participants’ immunity to the varicella-zoster virus after receiving the vaccine for the virus mimicked that of younger adults. When tai chi was combined with the vaccine, however, results were even more pronounced, seeing an increase in immunity of 40 percent in most.
For your overall health, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. That’s just 30 minutes five days a week. If you’re unable to exercise for 30 minutes straight, try to sustain your chosen activity for a 10-minute stretch. That being said, rest is also important when it comes to shingles, so listen to your body. If you’re too tired to exercise, perhaps you could do some stretches throughout the day, which may help you feel better, notes the National Institute on Aging.
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