You can hardly find a person who doesn’t get sick at least twice a year. Actually, the Harvard Medical School review states that the average adult experiences two to five common colds each year. And usually, the process of recovery takes about a week or even ten days. In sum, it’s almost a month per year – a fairly long period, especially for those who have an active lifestyle and hate to miss even a day of training. That’s where the question of working out with a cold arises.
Moderate exercise may decrease the risk of acquiring an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), but too little or too much may increase the risk – claim T.Weidner and T.Schurr in their research “Effect of exercise on upper respiratory tract infection in sedentary subjects”. But is the sport able to help the body in coping with an illness? Won’t such training session contribute to the development of serious complications? Most athletes, fighting a bug, are also interested how they should train in order not to get any negative effect.
So, is it useful to train with a cold or flu? What are the risks? Let’s figure it out together!
A SEVERE INFECTION OR JUST A MALAISE?
“Feeling not well? That’s not cool, but I’m still going to the gym. Actually sick? Nope, I’m staying home” – follow this easy rule when making a decision.
If you have bad allergies, headache, a common cold with an itchy throat, a runny nose, dry cough, sneezing, or watery eyes, but without achy muscles, a fever above 99.5°F, regular vomiting or having diarrhea – in other words, if all your symptoms are above the neck, feel free to train. However, you should keep in mind the fact your body isn’t ready to train at full capacity, so you’re not gonna make a big progress these days anyway.
Well, exercising with a cold may be OK, but if you’ve got the flu or any other serious contagious cold-related disease with “below-the-neck” symptoms (muscle aches, upset stomach, chest congestion, high fever etc.), hitting the gym is a definite no-no. Unless you stop training, it may lead to complications affecting the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Build your immune system up first before building the muscles!
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that you have to stay in bed without getting up until the full recovery. Doctors recommend bed rest during the first 4-5 days when the body suffers from fever. And even with the high temperature, you need to walk around the room periodically to keep the blood flowing. After alleviating the symptoms, you can gradually resume at home, watching the heart rate and breathing not to overload the weakened organs.
SPORT & A COMMON COLD: A “SMART MIX”
So, your illness is not severe and you don’t have any contradictions for sport – ready to proceed with your next workout. There are some “gym etiquette” rules to do no harm when training under the weather.
- Reduction in Training Hours
It’s good to reduce the duration of training by 30-50%. Thus, if your usual workout lasts 90 min., the training time with a cold will be about 40-60 minutes.
- Decrease The Intensity Of Training
Even for a healthy person, parameters such as volume and intensity need to be considered for the prescribed programs to obtain the best results in strengthening a certain part of the immunological system.
So, during the illness, these parameters mustn’t be omitted under any circumstances. The intensity of training should be reduced by 50%. Do one set of lifting instead of five, halve the work time on each simulator or reduce the load. You can do warm-ups, aerobic exercises, run on the treadmill (maintain the same speed you usually run, but cut back on the distance), do step aerobics, but avoid muscle-strengthening exercises.
- Comply With The Recovery Period
Increase the load and intensity gradually – listen to your body. Start at 75% of your normal workout (for both cardio and weights) and go up to 80-90% during the first week. Begin training in the usual regime in the second or even third week. Also, taking a vitamin complex would be great.
- Avoid Training In Air Conditioning
Most gyms turn on air conditioning even when it’s cold outside. If you get under the flow of cool air after sweating, you can significantly exacerbate your health condition. No chances to avoid an air-con – avoid sweating.
- Drink Water
During a cold, the body needs plenty of water – so drink it not less than every 15 minutes.
- Have A Proper Rest
For faster recovery, a proper rest is a must-have. Don’t neglect a full night’s sleep and having a nap during a daytime, especially after training when the lowering of immune system comes.
- Adjust Your Training While You’re Sick
A structured workout routine awakens a stress response in the body. When we’re healthy, the body can easily adapt to that stress, but when we’re under the weather, the stress of a tough workout can be more than our immune systems can handle. That’s the reason to choose the activities that aren’t intense enough to create serious immune-compromising stress on the body. Instead, decide on those, helping you feel better and recover faster: walking, low-intensity bike riding, practicing Qigong or Tai Chi, jogging, yoga and meditation, swimming (only if it’s a relaxing activity for you).
SPORT & A COMMON COLD: THE MORAL DIMENSION
Never forget that even a common cold is contagious, and training indoors creates a danger of infection for all present: other athletes, coaches, and staff. Unless you’re gonna train in a face mask, maybe it’s better to do others a favor and stay away until you’re completely recovered? Don’t you find infecting everyone else at the gym for the sake of personal gain rather selfish?
If it doesn’t stop you, at least make sure you wash your hands, wipe down your equipment after use, and cough or sneeze into a tissue or your shoulder rather than your hand to reduce the risk of spreading your germs to others.
However, even this can’t completely isolate others from getting ill because of the psychological factor. The research carried out in 2014, reveals that healthy individuals are sensitive to observable signals of another’s peripheral body temperature and further show contagion of their temperature. The same works with a disease: people tend to get ill when they see a contagious person and think a lot about how much they afraid to catch it.
THE FINAL WORD
Summing up, it’s possible to continue training when being sick only in case it’s not a severe infection, but a malaise. Such workout should be short, low-intensity in order to prevent sweating and overload.
Remember that if acting wrong, sport can hurt both you and others – stay reasonable and humane in any situation. Do sports and be healthy!
Written by Francesca Russo http://thecrossfitshoes.com/