1. Moderate exercise boosts the immune system:
Your immune system is buoyed by moderate exercise. This helps in preventing illness as well as fighting an infection once it takes hold. We’re not talking about intense exercise, we’re talking about MODERATE exercise. There is also a latent affect post-exercise where many of your symptoms will abate if you are suffering a cold. It’s nice to feel symptom-free, even if it is only for an hour or so.
2. An exercise habit is hard to build for many people, so don’t break it once it’s established:
If you are not a habitual exerciser, this could be the trigger that causes you to break your new habit. Continuing to exercise, even if it is very lightly will reinforce to you that even when you are having a bad day, you have developed the discipline required to maintain your new lifestyle.
3. You will prevent losses in fitness and strength:
Whilst suffering from a virus, it is difficult to train at a sufficient level to stimulate improvements in cardiovascular fitness and new muscle growth. What you can hope for, is a period of maintenance rather than allowing all of your accumulated gains to be lost. Your body is constantly adapting to the environment and stimulus you are placing it under, so you can expect to have more than a day or two of rest before you start to detrain. This depends largely on your physical condition prior to the virus but it sure beats going backwards every time you are ill.
4. If you don’t exercise when you are ill, you are missing out:
If you add up all the days that you are sick in a year that can lead to a lot of missed days of training. Everyone is different but on average we suffer 5-6 colds per year depending on which research study you believe. If you have 5 days off for every cold, that’s 25-30 missed days of exercise. If you consider that most people also have a couple of holidays a year, then consider a few missed days for birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions, weather (too hot/too cold), school holidays and other commitments you can easily see how 25-30 days of missed training can then become 50-60 days of training or even more. Compound that with most people having a routine of training 3-4 days per week when they are fully available, you can see how 50-60days then becomes 180 days of no exercise. That’s half a year of NO exercise. My aim is to educate clients on how to become habitual exercisers but it takes some experience to work out how to do this safely.
Which brings me to the second section of today’s blog – my tips for exercising with a cold or mild virus:
1. Good Hygiene:
The last thing you want to do is spread the virus. Practice good hygiene if you train especially if you are in a crowded gym environment or it may be better to exercise at home or outside to avoid spreading germs.
2. Exercise should always feel good:
Generally speaking, you will need to back off your usual intensity of exercise. This is no different to the principles you might apply if you come in to train under various other forms of duress. E.g: lack of sleep, highly stressed, fatigued or overtrained.
Simply adjust to a lower level of exertion than you are used to. There is no hard and fast rule but here are some examples of simple adjustments: drop one set off of all of your weights exercises, do 75% of the weight you normally use, decrease cardio speed or level by 10-20%, decrease your total exercise time by one third. Make sure your adjustment leads to you feeling BETTER than when you started your session. That’s the best feedback you can get.
3. Don’t put undue stress on your body:
The last thing you want is to put undue stress on your body that affects your ability to fight the illness. So it is better to err on the side of caution and do less, rather than more. If you’re in doubt, don’t do it.
4. Keep a Good Record:
It is a lot easier to adjust your training if you have a clear record of what you normally accomplish in a session. You cant then more easily adjust your training load as per suggestion no. 2.
5. Pay attention to warning signs that you are overdoing it and STOP:
Check for these warning signs: elevated body temperature or excessive sweating, elevated working heart rate, elevated resting heart rate (10% higher than normal), muscular pain at rest, difficulty breathing at a mild exercise level, dizziness, nausea and/or lack of balance.
6. If you aren’t well enough to walk or go to work, don’t train:
As enthusiastic as I am about encouraging people to maintain a good habit, there are also times when rest is the best treatment. If you are too tired to do your normal daily duties, then rest is probably best but as soon as you feel well enough to walk or do some light resistance training – do it!
Special Note: this article should be taken as general advice only. Always consult your regular health care professional for specific advice on any medical conditions.