Whether it's running, mountain biking or competitive sports, the benefits of exercise go far beyond promoting heart health.

According to a recent British study, vigorous exercise could even help you to avoid catching the flu next winter.

Intense physical activity appears to stimulate the immune system, according to a study carried out by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The researchers' findings were based on the results of the U.K. Flu Survey, an online project that collects data on the seasonal illness from volunteers. Around 4,800 people took part in the survey this year, answering questions on their exercise habits among other lifestyle factors.

Based on the results, the researchers determined that 100 out of every 1,000 cases of the flu could have been prevented through two and a half hours of vigorous exercise per week. 

The authors of the study specify, however, that moderate exercise did not have the same effect.

"We need to treat this result cautiously as these are preliminary findings, however they are consistent with findings for other conditions and really show the health benefits of exercise," said Dr. Alma Adler, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The results of the Flu Survey echo those in a previous study published in the Journal of Cardiology, which showed that intensive exercise provided a boost to the immune system.