General NewsWell-being

Colds and exercise:stop your sniveling and get on with It

By December 2, 2009 October 29th, 2011 No Comments

Kaminsky and his team studied a group of men and women who agreed to be infected with the rhinovirus responsible for most colds. Two days after being infected, when the colds were at their heaviest, the subjects were asked to run on a treadmill while physiological tests were carried out. Like the healthy control group, cold-sufferers experienced no drop in lung function or capacity.

“I was surprised that their performance was not affected, even though they said that they felt more tired than usual,” Kaminsky says. He urges people with light colds to keep active, although those with more severe, feverish symptoms should listen to their bodies and proceed with caution.What do British experts think of his controversial advice? “It’s a bit of a misnomer that you should take to your bed when you have a cold. For most people, working out is fine,” says Louise Sutton, head of the Carnegie Centre for Sports Performance and Wellbeing at Leeds Metropolitan University. “My suggestion would be to apply the “below the neck” rule. If you have fever, sore muscles or joints, vomiting or a very productive cough – symptoms that exhibit themselves from the neck down – then you probably need to avoid exercise for at least a couple of days. If you just have a runny or blocked nose, watery eyes and a light, tickly cough then go ahead.”Indeed, keep moving and you might avoid the next cold altogether. Three years ago researchers found that women who exercised regularly – doing at least 45 minute of moderate activity on five days a week throughout a year-long study – were three times less likely to suffer a bout of the sniffles than their couch-potato counterparts. It seemed that activity strengthened the effect of immune cells that protect against viruses and bacteria that can cause infection.

However, while exercise does seem to boost immunity, it does so only to a point. Serious athletes or anyone in training for the London Marathon or another endurance event may find their defences are compromised as a result of longer or more intense workouts. Dr David Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University, North Carolina, has carried out research into the effects of strenuous workouts or prolonged periods of heavy training. “If you are running or exercising continuously for 90 minutes or longer, there is a temporary downturn in immunity,” he says. “At that point, carbohydrate stores drop causing a spike in the hormones cortisol and epinephrine that inhibit the protective effects of neutrophils and lymphocytes leaving you vulnerable to bugs.”

Other studies at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, have shown that there is a “window” of impaired immunity for the highly active. Marathon runners, for example, are more at risk of catching colds during the 72 hours after they finish the race.

Finding this balance can be difficult on your own, but part of the expertise that we offer at Diets Don’t Work Personal Training is the experience to tell when exercising might be counter productive. All of our block bookings of personal training in London, Windsor and Maidenhead include nutritional help and advice, so with good healthy nutrition and exercise you will be less likely to get a cold in the first place!

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