This is one of those things that we get asked a lot. Adults on average suffer from between 2-4 colds a year. Most of these occur between September and May. Contrary to what you might think, researchers don’t put this down to winter weather. It is more likely that they are spread more readily, with people spending longer indoors together during the colder months.
Colds and Flu are often confused, though they are different types of infection. Symptoms of the common cold are a stuffy nose, sore throat and maybe some slight aches. Flu is generally far more severe with fever, aches and pains and feelings of exhaustion. Chances are if you are feeling like this, you won’t want to exercise. If suffering from flu, avoid exercise until a week after it has cleared up to ensure you are fully recovered. If you are in any doubt over symptoms, speak to your doctor first.
Whether or not we suffer from colds is largely down to our body’s ability to fight infection. Many different factors can affect this. Smoking, stress, poor diet and lack of sleep all reduce our protection, making us more vulnerable to illness.
By taking regular exercise and eating a healthy diet we can improve our immune system. Research has consistently shown that people who stay active suffer from fewer colds.
Colds are highly contagious and easily spread in places like health clubs. If you’re not feeling well then help prevent spreading it to others by staying away from the gym altogether. The American College of Sports Medicine advises avoiding all high intensity exercise, such as running until a few days after the cold has cleared up. Mild exercise like walking shouldn’t cause any problems, and may even help relieve some of the symptoms.
Certain medicines are important to be aware of as well. Many common cold medicines that are available over the counter contain a substance called pseudoephedrine, it is commonly found in decongestants. This drug will affect your heart rate and blood pressure. This is very important if you suffer from a heart condition. If in doubt, consult your doctor for advice.
The general rule for exercise with a cold is that as long as symptoms are above the neck – a runny nose for example – then moderate exercise should not cause a problem. However, if you are suffering from the flu then contact your doctor and stay away from exercise until fully recovered.
Here are some simple guidelines to help if you are suffering from a cold –
• Stay out the gym – nobody will thank you for sharing your infection
• Drink plenty of fluids
• If symptoms are above the neck then some moderate exercise is fine
• Avoid high intensity exercise for a few days after recovery
• If you have had the Flu avoid high intensity training for 2-3 weeks afterwards
• Listen to your body, if you are feeling out of sorts then give it a miss.
• If you are at all unsure, consult your doctor first.