Q: If I have a cold, can I still workout? How long should I wait before returning to the gym?
A: Exercise and physical activities are important parts of a personal plan to stay healthy and prevent chronic illness. Regular exercise allows you to improve your overall fitness, which helps boost your immune system – the body's defense against infections.
Regular exercise along with proper diet, good sleep and stress control all have the advantage of being able to jump-start the immune system, and that can help reduce the number of colds you get. Some findings report that moderate intensity exercise (daily 20- to 30-minute walks, going to the gym every other day, or biking with kids a few times a week) might reduce the number of colds you get.
Because exercise might help boost immune function, it's usually safe to exercise with a cold as long as you listen to your body. Sometimes cold medications such as decongestants can increase your heart rate. In addition, your heart rate is increased with exercise. The combination of exercise and decongestants can cause your heart to pump very hard. You might become short of breath and have difficulty breathing. So be careful, and be courteous and wipe equipment after use.
While immunity is boosted when you work out moderately, the opposite might be true for elite or high-performance athletes such as runners, swimmers, and other athletes that push their physical limits with intense training without sufficient recovery. This isn't a problem for most of us, but if you're trying to reduce the number of colds, make sure you take time for rest and recovery after periods of intensive training.
Use common sense: stay home and rest if you are unsure about how you’re feeling or if you are feeling aches in your muscles. After the cold, give your body time to recover before returning to the gym, and work slowly back into your normal routine.
Have a question? Email ealvarez@MiamiHerald.com or tweet @eddiemalvarez. To talk to the fitness trainers, email email@example.com.