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Colds and cold … any connection?

Even in this enlightened age, one cannot go out lightly dressed in cold weather without being warned about the risk of catching a cold.

In fact, cold weather and colds have very little to do with each other. The only way to pick up a cold is to catch the latest mutation of the diabolical rhinovirus that’s going around. Polar explorers have noted that even after weeks of struggling through the blowing snow and frigid temperatures, suffering from exhaustion, exposure and undernourishment, they did not catch colds until they returned to civilization.

Isn’t it true that a chill can lower our resistance to infection, making us more likely to succumb to a virus that we might otherwise have fought off? Sounds plausible, but even this theory hasn’t proven itself in tests. I read a study where researchers exposed volunteers to the cold virus, then subjected a test sample of them to a variety of temperature conditions. (You have to wonder who volunteers for these things.) Some sat around in their underwear in 40 degree Fahrenheit temperatures; others were immersed in cool water to bring their body temperatures down. These tests were done throughout the whole life of the disease, from initial infection to the recovery stage. The cold temperatures made no apparent difference in the number or severity of colds that developed between the sample that was subject to this abuse and the control group.

Cold season, however, does seem to coincide with cold weather. Think about the conditions that prevail during winter: the cold temperatures forces people indoors, where they are in greater proximity to each other. The dry air in winter, both indoors and out, dries the mucus membranes inside the nose, hampering their protective function. Children are in schools and day care, where viruses are more readily passed around to each other and then to their parents. Schools and day care centers make such suitable breeding grounds for germs that I call them “culture” centers.

Added attraction

People who work in the fitness industry are well known for their fertile imaginations. Thanks to these creative individuals who are designing new types of fitness accessories and exploring ways to use them, and rediscovering and reapplying older exercise tools; fitness facilities and their members have more fresh, interesting, exciting and effective workout options than ever before.

Accessories are playing an increasingly important role, whether the goal is increased strength, cardio conditioning, balance, flexibility, agility, endurance or even rehabilitation. A recent report from International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), “Why People Join, Stay, and Quit,” delves deeper into what motivates the fitness market. The report found that the top three motivations people in general, and seniors in particular, are: a desire to feel better, lose weight and address a specific health concern. Furthermore, the study found that access to group exercise programs engenders a strong sense of belonging and promotes social networking.

Among the proliferating possibilities are a large variety of body-weight devices; kettlebells, Bosu balls, balls of other sorts and sizes, tubes, foam rollers … have become de rigueur. Others have turned to “old favorites” dating from, well, grammar school recess. Simple things like jump ropes and hula hoops are coming back because they replicate activities that people did on the playground when they were young. Instructors and members alike are looking for things that, while challenging, are also fun.

The recreation center recently received a shipment of kettlebells. Kettlebells, which are more boot camp than recess, date back to Russia in the 1800s, but are currently the hottest accessories in the weight room and in group-fitness classes. Kettlebells are coming into their own again because they have a different center of mass than a dumbbell and as a result, they require the use of more of the stabilizing muscles. It’ll elevate heart rate, burn calories and increase total-body strength with effectiveness.

Or, are you more into social networking than swinging a 50-pound kettlebell around? We aim to please. Come out and join the newly formed Tuesday night ladies racquetball league. The league meets from 7-9 p.m. and the typical format is instruction, practice and then matches. All levels of players are comfortably integrated into the existing format. There are several new players and they are excited to have a chance to meet other racquetball players. Call Todd at 731-2051 if you are interested in participating in the league play or have questions regarding the league.

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