Everywhere I’ve been this week – the office, the gym, the grocery store – I’ve found people sneezing, coughing and simply battling some kind of change-of-seasons cold. I’m actually struggling to keep the sniffles and sore throat at bay thanks to a recent “attack” by some of the top healthy-immune-system busters:
- Mental stress
- Lack of sleep
- Poor nutrition
So, I thought it was the perfect time to go over some of the general “rules” for modifying your fitness routine when you’re feeling under the weather.
The American College of Sports Medicine has outlined what you could call the “above/below-the-neck rule.” If your symptoms include the sniffles, runny nose and scratchy throat, studies show mild-to-moderate exercise isn’t harmful. This could include a low/moderate intensity cardio workout that almost constantly keeps your heart rate in a range between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. (Reminder: to calculate max heart rate: 220-your age) However, ACSM recommends you skip the heavy weight training or high-intensity cardio until you do beat your cold. Working out at too high an intensity when you’re fighting a bug puts extra stress on the body and can further compromise the immune system.
If you’re able to exercise and head to a gym, do your fellow gym members a favor. Wipe down any equipment you use with the anti-bacterial spray that’s sure to be made available by the facility. It’s just common courtesy!
As for the below-the-neck “stuff”: If you’re suffering from stomach issues including vomiting or diarrhea, or have a severe cough or fever, take a break from exercise until whatever’s ailing you has run its course. Also, if you’re knocked out by a serious bug for several days, remember to take it easy on your first day back in action. Your body could be recovering from mild dehydration and overall fatigue, so don’t jump out of bed and rush to your highest-intensity group exercise class the minute your fever breaks.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: listen to your body! It’s true that one the benefits of exercise is that it boosts the immune system. However, what’s also true is that depending on what’s going on in your life, your body may need an extra hour of sleep one morning more than it needs to be pushed to the max at a kickboxing class.
Remember, a minimum of one day of rest each week is important, but when you’re sick, you may need two or more. Don’t sweat it. Just rest up, drink your fluids and before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet and back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!