Colds and Exercise
…when to work out and when to sit it out
We know that regular exercise helps ward off diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, but did you know that it can also help prevent you from getting colds?
Regular exercise and being physically active improves your fitness levels which can boost your immune system. Exercise appears to exert an effect on the number and aggressiveness of certain immune cells, specifically the natural killer cells, by as much as 50 – 300%. Although it’s a temporary effect, it can make the immune system more efficient at fending off cold and flu viruses. And we’re talking about moderate intensity exercise, such as going to the gym every second day, walking briskly for 30 – 60 minutes daily or cycling a few times a week.
What if you have a cold though? Is it advisable to exercise?
Due to its immune boosting effects, it is usually safe to exercise with a cold, as long as you listen to your body.
Do the Neck Check
The general rule of thumb is the ‘neck check’. If symptoms are above the neck – sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing and watery eyes – then exercising should be fine. This is when listening to your body is important. Do what you can do and don’t do, or stop, doing anything that you feel is too much or makes you feel worse. Tone things down for a couple of days, like switch a kettle bell workout for pilates, or a run for a walk.
If symptoms are below the neck, like fever, coughing and fatigue then sorry, but you’ll need to give your workout a miss for a few days till symptoms are gone. Fever is the limiting factor. Raising your internal body temperature if you already have a fever is not wise and can make you feel even worse.
Colds and asthma
If you have asthma with a cold, then it’s better to avoid exercise until the cold is gone. By causing increased respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, you will land up stressing your body even more.
If you’ve done the neck check and decide you’re okay to work out, be sensible and stop and get medical help if you experience:
- • Tightness or pressure in your chest
- • Trouble breathing or excessive shortness of breath
- • Dizziness or light headedness
- • Upset balance
Spare a thought for fellow gym goers who really don’t want to share in your cold germs, and be sure to spray any equipment you use with a disinfectant spray and wipe it down thoroughly after you’ve finished with it. Taking your own spray bottle with 10 – 20 drops of Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Oil with you to the gym will give you a powerful 100% natural antibacterial and antiseptic spray to use on equipment. (Using it before touching equipment will also protect you from any cold viruses previous users may have left behind them.)