Exercising (Or Not) For Your Immune System
The leaves are falling, and while that may signal that the holidays are getting close, it also means that cold and flu season has begun. Nothing can throw a good exercise routine out the window like getting sick. However, there are some things you can do to support your immune system and decrease the chances of getting sick—as well as how long you are sick. Here are four ways to protect yourself and take care of your health if you do get sick.
There are a lot of misconceptions about flu shots. Some people believe that if you will actually get the flu from the flu shot. Others believe that if you get a shot one year, you do not need to get another one. Neither of these are true. Flu shots often will include a deactivated virus, but this is used so that your immune system can recognize the virus in the future and kill it when it enters your body so you don’t get sick. A new flu shot is put out every year as the virus changes rapidly. Once it has changed, your body won’t recognize it to kill it unless you have been vaccinated.
An easy rule to remember when thinking about hydration is the 8×8 rule. This means that you should try to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. When you are sick, you will need to drink even more water to stay hydrated and speed up your recovery.
It is always important to wash your hands before and after eating, after using the restroom, and after touching contaminated surfaces. This helps to prevent the spread of germs. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol can reduce the number of germs on your hands; however, it does not remove all germs.
When you do get sick, it may be tempting to keep up with your exercise routine so that you do not lose the progress you have made. But if you have a fever or “below the neck” symptoms like chest congestion and upset stomach, continuing to exercise may actually be detrimental to your recovery. Any time you exercise, you place some stress on your body. When healthy, the immune system can handle this stress, but when sick, this exertion might be more than our bodies can handle.
If you have “above the neck” symptoms (e.g. runny nose, minor sore throat, or nasal congestion) and no fever, light exercise like walking or yoga may help to temporarily clear your congestion and help you feel better. Listen to your body, and only attempt exercise if you’re feeling up to it. Hold off on strenuous workout sessions until you’re feeling better.