It’s that time of year when everyone is getting sick! We’ve all heard the household remedies for fighting off the common cold such as washing your hands frequently and consuming more vitamin C.
Well research has found that exercising regularly (4-5x/week for at least 20 minutes per day) decreases the chances of developing the common cold by 50%!
Exercise kicks in our body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ reflex which scientists believe this activates our immune system and increases our number of natural killer cells by as much as 50% to 300%! This makes our immune system much more efficient and helps attack and destroy viruses that cause colds.
How does this work exactly? Here are 4 ways-
1. Because your respiratory rate (breathing rate) increases, more bacteria and foreign particles are flushed from the lungs.
2. As your heart rate increases immune cells circulate through your body faster which helps you react to and fight off potential infections faster.
3. When you exercise your body temperature rises and many infectious agents cannot survive a shift in even a few degrees (which is why your body generates a fever to fight infection).
4. Sweating helps remove waste products which decreases the amount of infectious agents in your body.
On my recent FOX 23 guest fitness segment I brought with me my “secret weapon” on this topic: my wife, who not only helps me run Tulsa Fitness Systems but is also a pharmacist and “go-to-expert” on exercise and illness.
Here is the link to watch our recent FOX 23 fitness segment on “exercise and colds- what to do and what not to do”
And here are my top 3 cold-fighting tips
1. Exercise regularly
– Exercise has been shown to strengthen the immune system and lower the chances of getting a cold by 50%
2. Get more sleep
– A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who lost just 2 to 8 percent of their total sleep time (about 10 to 40 minutes for an eight-hour sleeper) had nearly 4x the risk of getting sick compared with those who fell asleep quickly and slept soundly
– All forms of stress wear down resistance to colds and wreak havoc on your body
And a big question I often get from clients is “should I workout when I’m sick?”
The rule of thumb for exercising while sick is called the above/below-the-neck rule. If your symptoms appear above the neck (runny nose, sneezing, sore throat), then yes, you should be fine working out just don’t push yourself quite as hard as normal until you’re fully recovered. Studies have shown that exercising at a moderate-intensity level does not intensify cold symptoms or compromise the immune system.
If your symptoms are below the neck (diarrhea, intense coughing, vomiting, fever), then it’s recommended you let your illness run its course before resuming exercise.
So follow these tips to help stay fit and feelin’ good this holiday season!
P.S. Be sure and watch our recent FOX 23 fitness segment where my wife and I discuss these tips along with a few others! Here is the link-
Clint Howard, MS is the Founder/Director of Tulsa Fitness Systems located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Clint has a Bachelors degree in Health & Exercise Science and a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology, both from the University of Oklahoma. Clint is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength & Conditioning Association and American College of Sports Medicine and is also a Certified Boot Camp Instructor through the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association and a certified golf fitness expert through the Titleist Performance Institute.