Exercise strengthens your immune system. Most of the time. If you’ve ever heard that intense exercise can actually weaken your immune system in the hours post-workout, the jury is still out on that. So far, there is no conclusive correlation between exercise and sickness; but, since exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle and improves your cardiovascular health, it stands to reason that exercising might strengthen your immune system as well.
Of course your immune system is just that—a system. There is no one magic bullet for preventing sickness, nor is there any one thing that can shorten the life of your illness when you do get sick (that goes for you too, Vitamin C!).
Say you do catch a bug this winter season. Do you let it mess with your workout routine?
It depends on what your symptoms are.
First and foremost, try your absolute best to follow your body’s lead. Your workout will always be ready and waiting for you to return. If you are not sleeping well, are fatigued or are just having an overall hard time functioning in your daily tasks, it’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs rest and relaxation. Your body is already working in overdrive fighting the virus (and yes, both colds and flus are viruses), there is no need to add to its workload by making it repair muscles.
If you have a cold, with runny nose, stuffed sinuses, and a sore throat, it’s best to keep to gentle activities such as walking or yoga. As soon as your symptoms clear, you can resume more intensive workouts.
If you have more severe symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, a fever, and muscle aches, it’s recommended that you give your body 2-4 weeks to recover from the illness.
The rule of thumb is that if your symptoms are only from the neck up (besides the swollen glands) it’s generally fine to continue with a modified version of your routine. Otherwise, rest as much as you possibly can.
Remember, doctors say that a cold lasts seven days without treatment, and a week with treatment.