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DrSugar on Working Out With a Cold

DrSugar knows this is a season of stuffy noses, and that cold and flu season brings with it concerns about exercising when we don't quite feel 100 percent. He has a few things to say on the matter, which should help you decide if you should skip the gym and head to the couch or if the treadmill is the remedy you need. Here's what he has to say:


As Winter creeps in and cold and flu season begins, it is tempting to stay indoors and put away those running shoes for a few months. However, studies show that maintaining a moderate exercise routine can actually boost the immune system and prevent infections. The best way to prevent colds this Winter is to eat a nutritious and well-rounded diet, exercise, avoid stress, get plenty of sleep, and wash your hands regularly. While mild to moderate exercise routines boost the immune system, it is also known that extreme regimens can cause stress by elevating cortisol levels and actually weaken the immune system. This explains why it is common to come down with a cold following a big athletic event, such as that once-a-year marathon or triathlon.

To see how exercise can affect you once you're beginning to feel under the weather, please read more.

The next questions to tackle come when you actually get that tickle in the throat and a stuffy nose. Should I exercise? Will it boost my immune system? Will it make my illness worse? There is minimal medical literature when it comes to addressing the question of whether it is OK to exercise with a cold. Most physicians use common sense and prior experiences with sick patients. It is well established that sick patients with respiratory symptoms such as a productive cough, wheezing, or breathing difficulties will often feel worse following exercise. It is also not a good idea to exercise when you have a fever. When your body is reacting to an illness with a fever, your immune system requires a tremendous amount of energy to fight the infection. Exercising can put further stress on your body and actually make the recovery process slower. Some doctors suggest that it is fine to exercise if your symptoms are above the neck, such as mild sore throat or runny nose. If do you have a mild cold and you decide to go the gym, make sure to wipe down your equipment with disinfectant afterward! Also, ever wonder if it’s a good idea to "sweat out a cold"? We addressed this old wives' tale earlier this year.

If you have a question for DrSugar, send me a private message here and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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