Ride On: Exercise and Illness
A monthly resource for Spinning program enthusiasts

You're under the weather. Should you tell your trainer you need to work harder than usual to build up your immunity, shift your workout to a lower intensity, or skip exercise altogether?

The next time you’re sick, determine whether working out will help or hurt your condition with these tips:

DO check your symptoms. If you have above the neck signs, such as a runny nose, sneezing or sore throat, moderate exercise is generally safe as long as your do not have a fever. If you have below the neck signs, such as extreme fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, swollen lymph glands or a hacking cough, allow at least two weeks before returning to intense training.

DON’T exercise with a fever. Fever (a body temperature of above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) signifies you are doing battle with a virus. Exercising under these conditions increases your risk of dehydration, heatstroke and even heart failure.

DO modify your exercise intensity. You cannot power away your ailment through more intense workouts. In fact, you may make your illness worse. A simple sore throat, for example, could indicate an infection, and your immunity to fight it will be reduced if you continue vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise, however, is fine for mild cold symptoms as long as your heart rate and body temperature do not increase excessively. If you feel fine, you can increase your intensity. Stop exercising if you feel dizzy or nauseous.

DON’T infect or become infected. Be alert to air quality conditions at your training facility. During cold and flu seasons, exercise during less-crowded hours to avoid catching or transmitting viruses. However, the best way to prevent the spread of the germs that cause colds is to wash your hands regularly.

DO exercise to keep your immunity strong. Researchers have found a link between regular exercise and improved immune function response. During moderate exercise, immune cells circulate more quickly through your body and are better at destroying viruses and bacteria.

DON’T let a temporary illness stop you permanently. Focus on flexibility, stress management and mind/body awareness during down times. Moreover, plan how to resume your activity program as soon as you can rather than letting yourself drift into sedentary habits.

DO give your body the time it needs to recover. Making up for lost time in the gym can drain your immune system all over again. Exercise for two days at a lower intensity for each day you were sick.

DON’T hesitate to consult your doctor. Even if an illness is minor, check with your physician if you are seriously concerned.

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