If you want to prevent getting colds this season, then regular, moderate exercise may be just what the doctor ordered. Exercise helps your immune system fight simple infections such as colds and flu. Exercise also helps ward off the big stuff too which we have mentioned before.
Regular exercise allows you to improve your overall fitness, which can help to boost your immune system – the body’s defence against infections. Regular exercise appears to have the advantage of being able to jump-start the immune system, and that can help reduce the number of colds you get.
Should You Exercise With a Cold?
Because exercise may help to boost immune function, it’s usually safe to exercise with a cold as long as you listen to your body. The best way to determine whether you should go to the gym, or go to bed is the extent and location of your symptoms. You will need to give yourself a “neck check”. You can exercise safely when your symptoms are from the neck up, such as a sore throat. Physical activity won’t slow down your recovery, as long as you don’t elevate your heart rate and body temperature too much.
It’s best to rest when symptoms are below the neck, such as a tight chest. Exercising with major cold symptoms, particularly a fever will prolong your illness and can be dangerous. Physical activity will compromise your immune system as the body focuses on energy production and muscle function instead of fighting the illness.
If your temperature is at or over 37.5 °C (99.5 °F), your body is fighting an infection, and needs rest to recover. Listen to your body!
Can you sweat out a cold or flu?
When you have cold and flu symptoms, attempting to exercise or “sweat it out” may actually allow your symptoms to become worse. Too much sweat can dehydrate you at a time when you actually need extra fluids to loosen congestion. Dehydration can also dry the mucous membranes in your respiratory tract, worsening a stuffy nose or scratchy throat.
As your symptoms diminish, ease back into your exercise with caution. Start out gently to see how you feel, and if the body responds well, gradually increase the intensity and duration over a few days. Avoid jumping straight back into your old level of effort. Modify your intensity until all the symptoms have completely disappeared.
Remember gym hygiene is important wherever you go to exercise, wash your hands and make sure you or the instructor cleans the equipment regularly as this helps to fight against the spread of diseases!