Health Buzz: Exercise Fights Colds, Study Suggests

How to choose a health insurance plan; women could get free birth control with health reform law.

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Regular Exercise Leads To Fewer, Less Severe Colds

Looking to sidestep those pesky winter colds that cause dripping noses, stuffy heads and missed work days? Hit the gym, because daily workouts could fight colds, new research suggests. People who exercise regularly have fewer and milder colds, according to a study published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Working out for at least 20 minutes five times a week nearly halves the odds of being infected with cold viruses, say the study authors, who tracked the respiratory health of 1,000 people for 12 weeks. Exercise stimulates the movement of immune cells throughout the body, which means they're on high-alert and more likely to attack harmful viruses and bacteria. "The most powerful weapon someone has during cold season is to go out, on a near-daily basis, and put in at least a 30-minute brisk walk," study coauthor David Nieman told MyHealthNewsDaily.

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  • How to Choose a Health Insurance Plan: 12 Helpful Tips

    Choosing the right health coverage has never been easy, and the health reform law has made things more complicated—especially for those choosing among plans provided by their employer. Besides sorting through differences in premiums, deductibles, and copayments, you need to consider new provisions in the law that have recently kicked in and could impact your coverage for the coming year, writes U.S. News's Megan Johnson. The following tips can help clear away the confusion, and help you choose the right plan during the open enrollment season.

    1. Check for grandfather exemptions. If your employer makes no substantial changes to your insurance plan, it may be "grandfathered in" and not subject to certain required provisions in the health reform law. These include free coverage (with no copay) for preventive services like blood pressure or depression screening, smoking cessation programs, and immunizations. Plan materials will indicate whether or not the plan is grandfathered, along with the benefits it provides.

    2. Decide which plan type best meets your needs. There are generally three types of plans: health maintenance organizations (HMO), preferred provider organizations (PPO) and point-of-service plans (POS). An HMO requires that you use physicians within a specific network, giving you less flexibility but a more affordable cost. A PPO allows you to stay in-network or go out of network for a heftier fee; out-of-pocket costs are usually higher for PPO's than for HMO's. POS plans combine elements of HMO's and PPO's. They give you the option to pay more for venturing out of network, but usually require you to choose a primary care physician within the network and get a referral from that physician before seeing any specialist. [Read more: How to Choose a Health Insurance Plan: 12 Helpful Tips.]

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    • Women Could Get Free Birth Control With Health Reform Law

      Women could soon be entitled to free contraception, thanks to the health reform law. That's right, free birth control pills, free intrauterine devices, free patches, and free vaginal rings, writes U.S. News's Deborah Kotz. As part of the law, a panel of experts will decide over the next few months which services will be offered free to women including maternity care, pelvic exams, and—more controversial—contraception. Many women spend as much as $50 a month for hormonal contraception or $200 to $400 to have an IUD inserted, yet some, squeezed by the recession, have found themselves skipping pills or going without birth control altogether. "We need to do everything we can to ensure that women have access to birth control," said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards at a press breakfast in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. Women, she added, shouldn't have to choose between birth control and basics like rent, tuition, and childcare.