26 Aug Can Exercise Help Me Beat The Flu?
Should we still exercise when we’re feeling under the weather? And if so, how much exercise is okay? Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Mark Simpson, investigates.
It is that time of the year where we all seem to get struck down with a common cold, viral infection or a severe case of man-flu.
Winter is a tough time at best to stick to a training regime, the last thing anyone needs is a setback in the form of sickness. So what can we do? We generally take one of two approaches to this situation, take a complete rest from any form of exercise or try to ‘sweat it out’.
The question is – should we still exercise when we’re feeling under the weather? And if so, how much exercise is okay?
Is it okay to exercise when sick?
The simple answer is ‘yes’ you should still exercise, but stick to a low-moderate intensity.
The influence that exercise has on our immune system is greatly underestimated. Exercise influences each and every aspect of the immune system so it can be a complicated relationship.
The amount and intensity of exercise are the two most critical factors influencing our immune system that we need to consider.
Can exercise levels influence your risk of infection?
Yes, it can according to research! Take a look below:
- Individuals competing in prolonged, intense exercise (e.g. marathon or other endurance events), or individuals with an intense, frequent weight training routine are at the highest risk of infection.
- Sedentary individuals (those completing little to no exercise) are also at an increased risk of infection.
The good news however is, individuals completing regular, moderate exercise have a below average risk of infection.
Why is this the case?
Moderate exercise is thought to have a positive influence on the immune system efficiency by increasing the level of circulating immune related cells or hormones. Hence why active individuals are at a decreased risk of infection, and sedentary individuals are at an increased risk!
But what about our endurance athletes or gym addicts?
It’s simple, intense exercise has a temporary ‘immunosuppressive’ effect, that means it decreases the efficiency of the immune system for a short period of time (3-24 hours) after the exercise bout. The stress that intense exercise places on the body is responsible for this immunosuppressive effect.
So what does this mean for me?
Our answer is yes, if you’re sick slip your runners on and move around, but don’t go overboard. Stick to light or moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, gentle cycling or a low intensity weight session. Not only will it help give your immune system the kick it needs the endorphins will help pull out of the winter blues.
Avoid high intensity exercise that will put excessive demands on your body and drink plenty of water! For more information on how to exercise right for your condition, contact your local accredited exercise physiologist.