Scientific evidence shows there is an irrefutable link between exercise and illness prevention.
Does Exercising Prevent Colds?
Nothing adds to the winter blues like a big disgusting dose of the common cold. Generally, when we’re feeling under the weather, the last thing we want to do is workout. However,
But studies show that regular exercise increases immune cells called “natural killer cells” by 50 to 300 percent. Also, aerobic exercise recruits immune cells that are lying dormant in the spleen, lymph nodes or bone marrow. Benefits can be seen in people who: take daily 20 to 30 minute walks, workout at the gym every other day, or bike several times a week.
- A study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that women who walked for 30 minutes every day for 1 year got half as many colds as women who did not exercise.
- Another study found that 65-year-olds were able to boost their number of infection-fighting white blood cells to the same level as 30-year-olds.
- A 2010 study of 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 85 published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who exercised 5 days per week for 20 minutes or more experienced 40 percent fewer sick days of runny noses, sore throats, coughs, fevers or headaches than those who exercised one day per week.
Is It Safe To Exercise With A Cold?
On one hand, it may NOT be prudent to exercise with a cold if…
- The decongestant you’re on escalates your heart rate
- You’re feeling dizzy or light-heated
- You have a fever, diarrhea, swollen glands or body aches
- You find it difficult to get enough oxygen in
- You have asthma in addition to your cold, or
- You cough or wheeze a lot while working out.
On the other hand, research indicates that exercising with a cold has little to no effect on recovery time. Ball State University exercise physiologists Leonard Kaminsky and Thomas Weidner conducted a study of men and women who had rhinovirus. Even though subjects felt fatigued, lung function and performance were unaffected.
They found that people who exercised on treadmills at 70 percent max heart rate for 40 minutes recovered just as fast as those who didn’t exercise, but they generally felt much better than their peers who were “taking it easy.”
Ideally, you should wait a couple days after your symptoms appear to avoid overstressing your body. When you do work out, try a 45-minute walk or something a little easier on the body.
Can Exercise Cause Colds?
Scientists also note that athletes who train rigorously without recovery are actually more susceptible to viral infections like colds, upper respiratory ailments, or the flu. Runners, swimmers and other extreme athletes sometimes inadvertently decrease their number of white blood cells and increase the amount of cortisol stress hormone.
According to Dr. David Nieman, exercise immunologist at Appalachian State University, marathon runners are 6 times’ more susceptible to getting sick after running a race than other people who are equally fit.
Following 90 minutes of continuous exertion, stress hormones kick in, muscle breaks down and inflammation increases, he says, causing the body defenses to drop for up to one day. He recommends that athletes take 1,000 mg of quercetin per day for two weeks before a race.