Feeling Ill? Exercise Do's and Don'ts
You’re tired and achy. You must be getting a
cold or maybe even the flu.
Should you tell your trainer you need to work extra hard to build up your
immunity, shift your workout to a lower intensity or skip exercise altogether
until the bout passes? Most of us get hit with allergies, colds and other minor
setbacks throughout the year, but few hard-and-fast rules exist regarding
exercise and illness. The next time you're sick, refer to these do's and don'ts
to help determine whether working out will help or hurt your condition.
1. DO a check of your symptoms first. If you have above the neck signs, such
as a runny nose, sneezing, or a sore throat, moderate exercise is generally
safe as long as you do not have a fever. You can resume intense workouts as
soon as symptoms disappear. If you have below the neck signs, such as
extreme tiredness, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, swollen lymph
glands, or a hacking cough, allow at least two weeks before returning to
2. DON'T exercise with a fever. Fever (a body temperature above 98.6 degrees
Fahrenheit) signifies you are doing battle with a virus. Exercising under
these conditions increases risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and even heart
3. DO modify your exercise intensity. If you have cold or flu symptoms, you
cannot power away your ailment through more intense workouts. In fact,
you may make your illness worse. A simple sore throat, for example, could
indicate an infection, and your immunity to fight it will be reduced if you
continue vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise, however, is fine for mild cold
symptoms as long your heart rate and body temperature do not increase
William A. Primos Jr., MD, and James R. Wappes in The Physician and
Sports Medicine (January 1996) suggest working out at half speed for about
10 minutes. If you feel fine, you can increase your intensity. Stop exercising
if you feel dizzy, nauseous or experience any other exacerbated symptoms.
4.DON'T over train or stress out. Over training can lead to suppressed
immune function and exposure to opportunistic infections, notes medial
exercise specialist Michael Youssouf, MA. In addition, attempting new or
harder activities can lead to failure. Such stress may influence your immune
system. Choosing activities you enjoy and can do consistently may improve
your exercise adherence and immune function.
5. DO exercise to keep your immunity strong. Researchers have found a link
between regular exercise and improved immune function response. Primos
and Wappes note that during moderate exercise immune cells circulate more
quickly through your body and are better at destroying viruses and bacteria.
6.DON'T infect or become infected. Be alert to air-quality conditions at your
training facility. During cold and flu seasons, exercise during less-crowded
hours to avoid catching or transmitting viruses. Consider outdoor activities
if weather conditions permit.
7.DO use common sense. Ken Baldwin, president of Premier Fitness in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, advises ill clients to stay home, rest, and drink
plenty of fluids. It's difficult to exercise when you're coughing and sniffling.
8.DON'T let a temporary illness stop you permanently. Focus on flexibility,
stress management, and mind-body awareness during down times, Youssouf
suggests. Moreover, plan how to resume your activity program as soon as
you can rather than letting yourself drift into sedentary habits.
9.DO return to exercise when you're ready. Making up for time missed in the
gym can drain your immune system all over again. Exercise for two days at a
lower intensity for each day you were sick, Primos and Wappes advise. Give
your body time the time it needs to recover.
10. DON'T hesitate to consult your doctor. Even if an illness is minor, check
with your physician if you are seriously concerned. As always, better safe
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