Since a special someone of mine is at home sick, I thought it would be relevant to touch on how the cold can affect your training, and visa versa. The fall is a time of rampant viruses. Change of seasons, less daylight and a number of other things that can throw you out of whack. And while the cozy comfort of pumpkin spice everything may sooth your soul, there are no answers in the swirling foam.
Firstly, I think it’s important to note that exercising will reduce your risk of getting sick, it has great immunity boosting properties, as well benefits for reducing stress, inflammation and regulating blood sugar and pressure. So with all these health and immunity boosting properties, couldn’t exercise get those endorphins flowing and coax your body back into feeling fab?
So, the overall consensus is that gym rats report fewer colds and other flu-like symptoms than our non gym inclined peers. This of course is within reason, there is obviously a point where you can go to far and increase the stress on your system. This is why often people get what they call a “prep cold”. If you exercise hard or for a long period of time, with little recovery, there may be a window afterwards when your immunity is suppressed and you are more likely to catch a cold or other bug. According to David Pyne: “A really intense and/or prolonged bout of exercise can lead to a temporary impairment in the immune system. Basically in the hours and the day after, you need to be mindful of that.” This is why I personally always take 1000mg of high quality vitamin C post workout, in addition to its cortisol reducing properties.
You’re probably wondering by now “well can I, or can I not exercise!? Get to the point”! Well good news, the answer is yes! As always, within reason. Exercise may even help you feel better by opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion (bonus, pre workout and extra fun supplements like ephedrine are great nasal decongestants). As a general guideline, exercise is usually OK if your symptoms are all “above the neck.” I.e., seeking, coughing, sore threat, and other general yuckiness. Contraindications would be symptoms such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach. A.k.A “below the neck”. Also avoid exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches. This generally indicates a full on flu, which is serious business. Your body needs major rest! Also, stay home! Don’t spread that stuff, especially in a grimy gym, rubbing your paws all over everything. While we on the topic, also avoid subways, babies, coffee shops, nursing homes, and other germ ridden places, gross.
Since I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw some science at you (and would you even believe anything I say), here’s a fun little study. Thomas G. Weidner, Ph.D., of Ball State University in Munice Indiana, took 50 moderately fit student volunteers, who were divided randomly into two groups: exercising and non-exercising. Each volunteer was injected with the cold germs (areal nice guy right)? and then tracked each student for a period of ten days. Each subjects was required to keep a daily log of physical activity. The exercise group worked out either by running, biking or using a step machine for 40 minutes every day, at no more than seventy percent of their maximum capacity (measured by heart rate reserve). Now I know, this isn’t weight lifting. And I will be quite honest, weight lifting and cardio definitely have different physiological effects. But, in terms of quality, it’s some good qualify peer reviewed research.
Anyhow… Upon completion of the study and after analysis of exercise data, symptom severity, and actual mucous weight measurements, there was shown to be no significant difference in symptom severity or duration in the exercise group or in their inactive counterparts. Overall conclusion, exercising at a moderate intensity level does not intensify cold symptoms or compromise the immune system. Ta Da!!
So there you have it my loves! Move your booties, clear up those nasal passages, and shake it off! Unless you have the black lung or consumption, then leave your sick ass home 😉