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The Fitness Zone

Should I Exercise When I Have a Cold?
July 17, 2015

Awkwardly coughing your way through a workout? Completing your cardio with the sniffles? We talk about the age old question; should we be exercising with a cold? Read on and find out whether you need to stay on the couch for a while longer or launch back into your routine!  

When we’re sick, our body is putting all its energy into fighting the illness. Just like the flu or a cold, exercise stresses your body; just in a far more productive and feel good kind of way. It depletes our glucose and fat stores, requires lots of oxygen and water, and fatigues our nervous and endocrine systems.

The ‘neck rule’ is an easy test to apply. If your symptoms are above the neck - sneezing or stuffed-up nose - it's safe to break a sweat.

If your symptoms are flu-like or below the neck, like nausea or a fever, hold off the exercise completely, advises the ACSM.

Australian Institute of Fitness National Cert. 3 Master Coach, Thamsin Dunn, says if your symptoms are above the neck, there are some benefits to exercising through it.

“Gentle treadmill walking or flexibility exercises will increase your cardiovascular response and help boost your immune system. It will also make it easier to get back into your exercise habits once the illness has broken.”

If you’re a regular exerciser, things can feel worse when you’re trapped in your bed, and deciding whether to exercise with a cold often comes down to which is the lesser of two evils. If you’re unsure, read on for our do’s and don'ts!

Do

  • Walk. Walking can open your airways and help you breathe.

  • Run. Running is a natural decongestant too, but hold off on the marathon training. Research has found that prolonged exercise of 1.5 hours will compromise your immune system for up to 24 hours afterwards.

  • Yoga. Yoga gently stretches aches and pains away, and may lower cortisol levels produced when your body fights a cold.

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits so you can get a natural source of minerals and vitamins

Don't

  • Don't go for a dip. Chlorinated water can irritate skin and eyes, and is a good way to spread germs.

  • Don't get too adventurous. Outdoor activities in the cold like biking which will dry your airways.

  • Don't share it around. Keep away from team sports and your local gym/ health club - no one wants your cold.

If you are a fitness junkie, remember that it is better to fully recover from a cold then to train with it and get worse. The best thing you can do is listen to your body, if you are tired, rest. During the cooler months it is common for our immune systems to decrease and for our bodies to want to take a break so don’t beat yourself up if you have to take a few days to recover and mend your health. Your body will definitely thank you for it!

Lastly if you are experiencing flu or cold systems and your not sure if you should be exercising, book into see your doctor for further advice.

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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