rarely get sick, this is because I exercise and listen to my body when it demands more rest. Research has established a link between a strong immune system and regular, moderate exercise. On occasions, I can push too hard, reducing my immune system and becoming more susceptible to illness, which in our society isn't too difficult. Protecting others from our germs can be difficult, but we all do need to try harder to protect others from our germs on public transport and in a working environment.
For the majority when we do get sick, it's normally short lived, for up to 72 hours, which we all know as the common cold. It's nothing more than an annoyance. We carry on with life, taking various remedies to get us through the day, eating well and hydrating to boost our depleted immune system.
Then there is the flu, which is an infectious disease. The virus has several common symptoms, including chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing and fatigue. Resulting in the affected being bed ridden, having difficulty breathing, sleeping or eating. The common cold cannot be confused with the flu, with the small exception of people in high risk groups.
For a minority there is Man-flu, which is neither of the above. It's a mental state of uselessness adopted by men, who feel the need to exaggerate their symptoms in order to get some attention. You really should man-up and stop this behaviour, you are no longer a teenager and I would hope, no longer being looked after by your mother.
When we are ill, not only should we be in recovery mode, but we should be in prevention mode, preventing others from catching our germs. It’s a common misconception that the Japanese wear facemasks because they do not want to inhale polluted air, they actually wear them to prevent the spread of infection. This is a whole country of people that recognise spreading infection is kept to a minimum, by not breathing over your fellow human being when you are sick. If only we did this. I recommend washing your hands often and using an anti-bacterial gel. Tell people you have a cold, don't shake their hands and cover your nasal passages, before coughing and sneezing. If we all did this, germs wouldn't spread so fast.
No matter what time of year, we all catch either a common cold or the dreaded flu, but should we exercise?
With the flu, the answer is clearly no and I'm pretty sure you couldn't get out of bed even if you wanted to. If however, you’ve got a slight cough, your throat is sore, you’re sneezing, your nose is running and you may even have the sweats and slight muscle ache. You have a cold and that’s it. Moderate exercise may help to boost immune function, so it's usually safe to exercise with a cold.
Still, if you exercise with a cold, I always recommend "listen to your body" and to follow these general rules - neck up or neck down:
If your symptoms are from the neck up, it's highly likely you’ll be able to exercise, but be aware that medications can increase your heart rate and when combined with exercise can cause your heart to pump harder than normal. You may become short of breath and have difficulty breathing. I recommend exercising at around 30% of your normal exercise capacity, until you feel strong enough to return to your normal routine.
If your symptoms are from the neck down, you've got a deep chest cough or a fever, do not exercise. You most likely have inflamed tissue in the lungs and exercise will make this worse, rest is the best course of action.
If you do exercise and have difficulty breathing before or after the session or generally feel worse after exercise, then STOP. Take a few days off, it happens and it's okay to stop and rest, we are all human beings.
The above doesn't apply to high risk groups.
I am in this high risk group. I do get worse when I get a cold, but I know the limits of my body and my asthma. I've worked with health professionals to find those limits. If you have asthma and a cold, make sure you know your body and discuss with your doctor before you exercise. If your asthma symptoms are worse with a cold, use caution and if at any point you are in doubt, again, stop and rest.
As always, you and your body are one, listen to it, you can often learn a lot when you do.
Finally, if you are going to exercise with a cold, I recommend you stay out of the gym. Most gyms have air conditioning, which will not help your cold and will help spread the infection. There are a whole bunch of healthy people there, who really don't want your germs and they'd rather appreciate it if you stayed away, until you absolutely know that you’re no longer infectious. Besides, get outside, you just can't beat it.