As cold and flu season approaches, many of us are going to be faced with this million dollar question: do I run or do I rest? So, what is the right answer?
Oddly, and contrary to what you may believe, endurance exercise can decrease one’s immune system, even though the benefits far outweigh that. Our bodies need rest to recover to ward off sickness and with the constant stressing of our body and often opting for early morning exercise versus sleep, we can be at a disadvantage when colds and flus strike.
Let’s look at what happens to our bodies when we get sick: the body breaks down muscle reducing the muscle’s strength. These muscle strength decreases can take up to two weeks to recover. The body begins to use muscle protein for fuel, reducing fat metabolism, and your aerobic system is diminished. What does all this mean? Your run will feel a lot more difficult at a reduced effort and prolong the healing process. The focus when you are sick needs to be on getting better! Lost days from a cold or flu need to be viewed as recovery days. You will not see any gains by exercising while under the weather and those “lost days” may extend beyond what they would have had you just allowed yourself to get better. If you are unsure but you feel a simple cold coming on, exercise at extremely low intensity and for a short period of time may be ok. However, if you have a fever or your cold is in your chest, DO NOT exercise. Rest and recovery will be your friend in the long-run (no pun intended).