Exercise Stregthen Your Immune System

Now that the weather is starting to get colder and flu season is just around the corner, can you provide a little refresher on working out when you’re sick?

With all the hoopla about H1N1, this is a particularly important topic.  It is hard to turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing something about this issue.  

Fortunately, we have evidence that consistent exercise can strengthen our immune systems and provide us some protection from common infections.  However, what happens when you do get sick? Can you still work out?  Is it effective, or is it doing more harm than good?

It’s a tough dilemma.  On one hand, you feel horrible and don’t know if you can make it through a workout.  On the other, you don’t want to give back any of the gains you have made over the last few weeks.  Generally speaking, rest can’t hurt.  Taking a day off is not the worst thing you could do.  However, if you just can’t imagine even the slightest of setbacks, pay attention to your symptoms.  Definitely avoid exercising if you have a fever, body aches, chills, or other flu-like symptoms.  If you can deal with the stuffy nose, coughing, scratchy throat, or other general cold symptoms, a moderately intense workout probably won’t hurt.  Basically, if your symptoms are in your head, you should be okay for exercise, but if you are experiencing symptoms elsewhere, you should avoid it.     

But before you go running to the club, consider these issues.  Though you may be able to exercise, others will not appreciate it if you are sneezing and coughing around them.  To prevent spread of your illness, wash your hands before you work out, and when you are finished, be sure to wipe down the equipment that you were using.  Another issue to consider is that of your exercise intensity.  Much of the benefit from exercise comes from its intensity.  While ill, a great deal is going on inside your body to combat the illness.  Due to energy levels, you may not be able to give it everything you’ve got.  So start slow and increase incrementally until you are back to full strength.

Some cardiovascular exercise may even make you feel a little better, but doing too much too soon may slow your recovery.  Remember to listen to your body.  

Anthony G. Barnes is the club owner at Anytime Fitness in Chester and holds a degree in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science.  To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author at anthony.barnes@anytimefitness.com.


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