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The Fitness Zone

Exercising with a Cold
July 8, 2013

No matter what the season, or how healthy and fit you are, there are always time that we find ourselves a little run down, and then BAM, you have the dreaded flu. Having the flu, despite feeling horrible, can be very frustrating, especially when it comes to training. So we pose the question, can you traing when you have a cold? Daniela Hundzova, Australian Institute of Fitness WA Fitness Coach explores whether it really is a bad idea to exercise when you've got a cold.

My client recently came down with a cold and this is what she said to me: I don't have time to be sick. My goals are too important, besides what could really go wrong if Iexercise when I've got a cold?'

It seems as though in this busy, fast-paced modern world we really can't afford the luxury of being sick. Being sick is not seen as an effective, let alone efficient use of time. How dare the body waste days that could be spent working and exercising!

But let's not get angry. Let's try to understand how exercise affects us when we're ill.

Pain such as throat soreness, muscle aches, headaches etc. are all warning signs that the body is trying to communicate its struggle maybe physically because of infection or disease, or possibly (as a strong body of research now suggests) mentally or emotionally. The body uses the sensation of pain to tell you to slow down and rest.

Although it makes me sad to not listen to my body, I know all too well how much the westerner hates to rest. So if push comes to shove and you are still inclined to carry on as usual, try to follow these steps when exercising with a cold.

These tips have been taken from the American College of Sports Medicine's publication Exercise and the Common Cold and are supported by the Australian Institute of Sport.

  • In general, if your cold symptoms are from the neck up (a runny nose and/or sore throat), moderate exercise is probably acceptable and, some researchers would even argue, beneficial. Intense exercise can be resumed a few days after your symptoms have subsided

  • If your illness is systemic that is, spread beyond your head, such as fever, swollen glands, and aching body bed rest and a gradual progression to normal training are recommended. Intense exercise should be delayed for approximately two weeks.

You should definitely not try to sweat out' your illness. If you have a temperature exercise will increase it and this is potentially dangerous and you're putting yourself at risk

If you're in any doubt about your symptoms, make sure you consult your doctor, and where possible let your body recover properly after the flu before getting back into exercise, not just for your own health but also for the health of other exercisers at your gym.

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This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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