Many of us (me included) try not to miss a workout when we’re feeling a bit rough.
But should you exercise when you have a cold?
Sometimes we’re not sure what to do for the best – especially if it’s ‘just a cold’.
Does vigorous exercise actually make your symptoms worse, or will it help strengthen your immune system and promote faster recovery?
Good news and bad news really..
To Exercise or Not to Exercise?
The good news, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is that “Regular and moderate exercise lowers the risk for respiratory infections”. – aka a cold.
So it’s good to know that a regular exercise routine can help prevent the onset of a cold in the first place.
That does make sense, as I very rarely get a cold.
The ACSM also goes on to report that for a ‘common cold’ e.g. runny nose, sore throat and general body aches and pains, moderate exercise has not shown to make the condition worse.
Research has also suggested that exercise may actually be beneficial.
A Head Cold or Full Body Symptoms?
There’s common agreement among the medical websites I looked at online;
If the symptoms just affect the head e.g. runny nose, blocked sinuses, sore throat etc. it should not prevent you from moderate exercise.
The bad news is that any symptoms lower down your body that may affect your respiratory system for example, should warrant greater rest and abstention from exercising.
So according to the main-stream medical ‘experts’, you should be fine to work-out if the symptoms are confined to your head.
However, stay in bed and
eat chocolate rest up, if the virus has spread further down.
Treating a Cold
When one of the 200 or so strains of the cold virus enters your body, whether you get sick or not depends on many factors:
- How old you are
- If you are a heavy smoker
- Lack of sleep
- Poor nutrition
- Current health
There’s a saying from doctors: “a cold lasts seven days without treatment, and one week with it”.
Unfortunately there is no cure as yet, for the common cold.
The best we can hope for is to alleviate some of the symptoms by taking one or more of the zillion different cold and flu treatments available.
Feed a Cold
Have you heard of the phrase you need to “feed a cold”?
It’s actually good advice.
A poor diet that lacks vitamins and minerals can lower your immune system and increase your risk of becoming sick.
So eating a healthy diet before and when you do have a cold will help reduce the severity of the symptoms and the duration of the cold.
Although vitamin C is always touted as a good preventative measure against colds, it doesn’t actually prevent them.
However, higher amounts of vitamin C in your system can again help to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms.
The other factors that may contribute to whether you become sick when catching a cold virus, such as smoking, stress and lack of sleep, are all within our control too.
Don’t Rush to Take Antibiotics
Unfortunately people are too eager to rush to their doctor these days to swill down a concoction of antibiotics, thinking this is the best way to treat colds and other viruses.
Without being exposed to germs we will never build a strong immune system, leaving us vulnerable when we get older.
Our bodies are amazing things and are designed to make their own antibiotics within the immune system.
The more colds you get when you’re young and fit, the better your immune system will be.
This is the same for any type of germs that enter your body.
You may not think it at the time, but a few poorly days in bed might actually be a blessing in disguise – ‘every cloud’ and all that!
- Everyone gets a cold now and again – for most of us it’s just an inconvenience. We may even get a little pampering form our loved ones (fat chance!).
- Colds usually last for up to 7 days, but can be longer.
- There is no cure for the common cold. You just have to let it run its natural course until your body produces enough anti-bodies to fight it off.
- Over the counter and prescribed drugs can help alleviate some of the symptoms. But don’t rush to take anything stronger – let your body build your immune system, the way it was designed.
- A strong immune system can help prevent you from becoming sick with a cold, especially if you’ve already had that particular strain of the cold virus.
- You can maintain a strong immune system by regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, reducing your stress levels and sleeping well.
- Exercising when you have a cold (with head symptoms only) does not make the symptoms worse, and may even be beneficial.
If you have a cold, even if you don’t feel too bad, I suggest you don’t go to your local gym.
No one wants you there, spreading your nasty germs around!
You’re better off staying at home and performing some body-weight or cardio exercises.
Just keep the intensity to a manageable level – don’t push yourself. (No matter what you instincts are!).
Getting outside in the fresh air is also worthwhile.
A light jog or a brisk walk could be just the thing you need.