Should I Exercise if I am sick..?

Well, this is cold and flu time for us over here in good old Australia land while the rest of the USA and Europe are experiencing summer we here are getting our regular doses of cold and flu viruses. The old adage of sweat it out is simply a bad old wives’ tale. We can’t actually cleanse our livers, sweat or detox ourselves out of a virus. What we can do is give our immune system some simply tools and assistance to allow our bodies to fix themselves. If we sleep, stop any strenuous exercise, eat well and stay warm we give ourselves the quickest chance of recovery. While a modest exercise program with good rest in between with good sound exercise sessions will actually boost the immune system (when we are well) too much strenuous exercise and little to no rest (over training) will suppress the immune system. The best way to explain this is watch the avid over exerciser and see how many times they seem to get a cold, flu or Illness including diseases like cancer. While you will still hear people say…” don’t sit in that draft you will catch a cold “is a myth what does happen is the cold weather also can affect our immune system and makes us more likely to succumb to a virus. While exposing yourself to the cold or over exercising doesn’t cause a virus or bacteria to suddenly appear, what does happen is we become more vulnerable to what bacteria and viruses are present when our immune system is compromised or suppressed. How our bodies rids itself of a virus is when in the first instance a particular virus infects one or more cells of  any given tissue in our body. This infection leads to the synthesis and secretion of substances called interferons. Interferons are proteins and may be designated as alpha, beta or gamma interferons. These proteins interact with our adjacent cells which in turn assists them to become more resistant to an infection by a particular virus.
If this resistance isn’t strong or good enough to prevent the spread of the particular virus to other cells then we will begin to feel sick. At this time the body’s immune system takes over and begins to fight the infection by killing the virus on the outside of the cells and killing the infected cells as well. The killing of the infected cells prevents the spread of the virus since the virus requires a living cell in order for it to be able to be replicated. Normally the virus will be completely removed and you’ll get better. Having the right environment to give the immune system its quickest and best chance is allowing the body complete rest. I.E. avoid exercise, eat well and keep warm. When your illness has subsided and seems to be improving or letting up slowly, work back into your exercise regime. Before recommencing after a cold or flu allow a full weeks grace. When you do return after the week plan your exercise at about half what you were doing before the illness and slowly ramp it back to normal. You will no doubt experience some tiredness so listen to your body. Your previous level of fitness will return quickly. It is also a good idea every 3 months to have a week of complete rest. Change your programs every 8-12 weeks and don’t get stuck doing the same routine for years. Remember to avoid illness: don’t over train, rest regularly, eat fresh fruit and vegetables, avoid too much alcohol, don’t burn the candle at both ends, try and get a good 8 hours sleep and hit the bed before 10pm. Stay healthy.  

By: John Hart

Master’s In Education” (Disability/Rehab) Newcastle University Australia

“Grad Cert Education” Newcastle University Australia

“Diploma Fitness/Recreation”

“Diploma of Sport and Recreation”

“Cert 4 Personal Training”

“Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach”

Member of ASCA (Australian Strength and Conditioning Association)

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