SparkPeople Blogs  •  fitness  •  news

Exercise Reduces Sick Time Better Than Drugs

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As cold and flu season quickly approaches (or has already arrived if you live in my house), questions arise about exercise and illness. Is it okay to exercise if I have a cold? How soon after an illness can I return to regular activity? A lot of us are going to get sick this year, so it's good to know what to do if it happens to you. But what about preventing illness in the first place? We take our vitamins and eat our fruits and vegetables, but can exercise help protect you from getting a cold? Research says "yes."

According to an expert from the American College of Sports Medicine, "multiple studies have shown a 25% to 50% decrease in sick time for active people who complete at least 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as walking) most days of the week." The protection that regular exercise offers is far greater than the protection drugs can provide, according to the article. So instead of taking a pill, take a walk to help ward off a cold!

Despite your best efforts, you might still end up getting the sniffles this winter. So what are some guidelines to follow when it comes to exercise?

  • If you've got a cold that's above the neck (runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, etc.) then you should be okay to exercise if you're feeling up to it.
  • If you have a cold that's below the neck (in your chest), or if you have other symptoms like a fever or swollen glands, it's better to rest.
  • Listen to your body. If you're not feeling good and you push it too much, the illness can end up hanging around longer.
  • Once you're well again, ease back into exercise. You might find it takes a week or two (or maybe even longer, depending on how sick you were) to get back up to your pre-illness level.
Do you notice you get fewer colds now than you did before you became active? Has being fit helped you fight off illness?