Can Exercise Help Prevent Illness This Flu & Cold Season?

Prevention is often a focus for those concerned about getting sick, missing work and/or school, and maximizing the joy of their upcoming Holiday Seasons. From getting flu shots to adding a little extra Vitamin C to our diets, prevention is often a focus for those concerned about getting sick, missing work and/or school, and optimizing the joy of their upcoming Holiday Seasons.  

But can exercise increase my immune system? 

In general, adopting a healthy lifestyle is the most significant factor in developing and maintaining a strong immune system, and regular exercise and a good diet are critical components of this.

Some studies have indicated that exercise can help reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu. However, you can’t ignore the long-term immune-boosting advantages of other habits like eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and lowering stress.

Many of the benefits inherent in regular fitness routines are ones that also help ward off sickness, according to research supporting exercise as an immune booster: weight management, lower blood pressure, stress reduction, and enhanced circulation. 

At the same time, other studies have found that frequent, low-intensity exercise can help people avoid being sick, whereas prolonged, high-intensity exercise can make people more prone to getting sick.

We advise patients that if they think they’re catching something — a cold, the flu, or whatever it is that’s going around – they should reduce the time and intensity of their workout regimen just to be safe but keep exercising, and make sure you’re also staying hydrated, eating well, and giving your body time to heal.

The Neck Rule: If you have a cold and all of the symptoms are centered above the neck (nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and/or a slight sore throat), it’s usually OK to exercise. Simply lower your level of intensity. Instead of going for a jog, for example, go for a walk.

It’s advised not to exercise if you have symptoms below the neck, such as a congested chest, a hacking cough, or an upset stomach.

Take a break from exercising if you have a fever or if you are suffering muscular pains and weariness all over your body. Instead, get some rest, remain hydrated, and see your doctor if things don’t get better in a few days.

Listening to your body is always your best bet.  Just don’t go overboard. When your body is fighting an illness, pushing it too hard can cause more harm than good.

AUTHOR

Dr. Ben Bagge

Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance

"We Help Active Adults & Athletes Get Back To Workouts and Sports They Enjoy without surgery, stopping activities they love, or relying on pain medicine."
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