As cold and flu season approaches, so does the season of illness prevention. From getting a flu shot to adding more whole food nutrients to your diet, prevention often becomes a focus for many this time of year.
Individuals may try to avoid getting sick or to miss work and school, so they can maximize their energy through the upcoming holiday season.
So what about exercise? Can exercise boost your immune system? The answer is broader than the question itself.
Boosting the Immune System
On a general level, healthy living is the true key to building and maintaining a strong immune system. Habits like eating right, staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, and reducing stress account for some long-lasting, immune-boosting benefits.
But, regular exercise definitely plays an important role as well.
Some studies have shown, for instance, that exercise on its own can play a role in reducing the length and intensity of colds and flu. Such research often points to many of the benefits inherent in regular fitness routines as factors that also help ward off illness:
- Weight management
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduction in stress
- Improved circulation
Other studies have concluded that regular, mild-intensity exercise can help reduce illness while prolonged, high-intensity exercise can have the opposite effect by making one more susceptible to catching a bug.
Based on this information, if you feel you may be catching something – a cold, a flu or whatever may be going around – the best initial advice is to pull back on the length and intensity of activity just to be on the safe side.
Keep getting your exercise, but also take greater care to make sure you’re staying hydrated, eating well and giving your body time to recover.
And what if you do get sick?
According to the Mayo Clinic, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t continue to exercise. They offer the following two rules of thumb:
The Mayo Clinic’s “Neck Rule”
If you catch a cold and find that all the symptoms are concentrated above the neck (i.e., nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and/or a minor sore throat), it’s typically OK to exercise. Simply reduce your intensity. Instead of going for a jog, for instance, opt to go for a walk.
In contrast, if you find that you’re experiencing symptoms below the neck – things like a congested chest, a hacking cough or an upset stomach – it’s best to refrain from exercising at all.
The Mayo Clinic’s “Fever Rule”
If you have a fever or are experiencing muscle aches and fatigue throughout your body, take a break from exercising. Instead, prioritize rest, stay hydrated, and, if things don’t improve over a couple of days, visit your doctor.
The bottom line: it’s always your best bet to listen to your body, and don’t overdo it. Pushing your body too hard when it’s fighting an illness could potentially do you more harm than good.
If you or your child are feeling sick or have a fever, please call us to reschedule your appointment. Please note, we require a 24 hour notice for all cancelled appointments. Because we reserve the appointment slot just for you, cancellations with less than 24 hours notice may incur a late cancellation fee. Thanks for your consideration.
Wishing you good health and happiness this holiday season!