411 on COVID, colds and exercise – The Robesonian

411 on COVID, colds and exercise  The Robesonian


Talk about the perfect storm. Rona 3.0 is hitting at the same time as traditional cold and flu season. While the 3.0 version is much less serious, it is also much easier to catch and spread around. I have even seen some Facebook posts alluding to FluRona. Not sure if that is a real thing but I don’t want to find out. If you are an avid exerciser, as I am, it is important to know how to keep from getting sick in the first place and how to safely get back at it when you recover.

Rona, flu and colds can spread anytime you get lots of people together in a space (airplane, mall, movie theater, etc.). Chances are, some of them have something and the germs are just waiting to jump on you. Colds are the result of a viral infection and there a several different types. The one that usually causes a cold in grown-ups like us is called the coronavirus (old school version) and happens most often in early spring and winter. Colds cause sneezing, coughing, stuffy or runny nose, and sometimes fever and chills. The new COVID variant has similar symptoms. Garden variety colds and even COVID will work their way out in three to five days but some of the affects may linger longer.

Can exercise prevent illness?

Regular exercise appears to have the advantage of being able to jump-start the immune system, and that can help reduce the number of viruses you get. With exercise, the number and aggressiveness of certain immune cells, such as the ones called natural killer cells, increase by as much as 50% to 300%. If you exercise regularly, this temporary increase can help make the immune system more efficient at destroying intruders that cause illness such as colds. In one study reported in the American Journal of Medicine, women who walked for a half hour every day for one year had half the number of colds as women who did not exercise. In this study, researchers associated regular walking with increasing levels of infection-fighting

Can too much exercise make you susceptible?

While for most of us overexercising is not an issue, for some elite athletes it can be. Research indicates that athletes that participate in high-intensity sports (marathon running, triathlons, etc.) can actually get sick easier. When an athlete trains too hard, the very white blood cells that help prevent illness decrease, leaving the body more vulnerable to getting sick. These ultra-athletes need to be aware and make sure they build in recovery days to their workouts to prevent illness.

Can you exercise while sick?

Because exercise may help to boost immune function, it’s usually safe to exercise with a virus as long as you listen to your body. Use caution, however, sometimes cold medications, such as decongestants, can increase your heart rate. In addition, your heart rate is increased with exercise. The combination of exercise and decongestants can cause your heart to pump very hard. You may become short of breath and have difficulty breathing.

If you have a fever with an illness, exercise may stress your body even more. That’s why it’s important to wait a few days to get back to your regular exercise regimen. Working out too hard could stress your body, causing you to feel worse. This additional stress may hinder your recovery. It is best to back your exercise down a notch until you are 100 percent.

So there you have it. Exercise to prevent illness, keep exercising a little when you are under the weather, and don’t work out so hard that your immune system crashes. Remember to consult with your medical provider for their advice based on your personal health. My advice is to keep the hand sanitizer handy, load up on vitamins B3, C and also some zinc. Don’t drink behind your family or friends, do the 6-feet thing if you are out in a crowd, and for goodness sake, if you are sick, stay home!

Kathy Hansen has more than 35 years of experience in the health and fitness field. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]