Member Case Study: Exercising When Sick

author : AMSSM
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While regular and moderate exercise such as light jogging has been shown to boost immune system function, more vigorous exercise can suppress the immune system.

Member Question:
I got a chest cold 8 days ago.  Productive cough, green stuff.  Waxes and wanes.  Had a bit of a sore throat and felt a bit worn down early on, nothing now.   Problem is, the cough and phlegm is not going away.  I have a 9 month old, who got it three days before I did and he is just now finishing it off.  Most of what I've read says that if I'm coughing stuff up, I should not workout.  Problem is, I'm going absolutely nuts, and really want to train.  Moreover, I'm having trouble with food intake, at least partly because of the frustration from not working out.   I feel my fitness slipping away.   What can I do?

 

Answer:
With the cold and flu season upon us, a common question we hear from athletes is recommendations for exercising when ill. There is some misinformation out there that suggests trying to “sweat out” a cold or flu. However, that exercise could be doing more harm than good when you’re sick.

While regular and moderate exercise such as light jogging has been shown to boost immune system function, more vigorous exercise such as a hard tempo run, intervals or racing temporarily suppresses the immune system up to 24 hours after exercise.

Immune system suppression may lead to a worsening infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis, or even an infection of the heart muscle (myocardium) called myocarditis that can be life threatening or fatal.

One easy piece of advice is to remember the “neck check” in determining whether to exercise during an illness or not. If your symptoms are mild and isolated to the neck and above, such as a runny nose or sore throat, then you’re probably ok for light to moderate workouts. If the symptoms are below the neck- fever, muscle aches and pains, productive cough, or diarrhea, then consider holding off and rescheduling your workouts.

How fast can you return to a full workout schedule? Start back at about fifty percent of your normal exercise distance or time at a reduced intensity. Also allow extra recovery time between workouts. A proper amount of rest is important to a quicker recovery. Listen to your body and if you’re finding that you fatigue quickly, continue to limit your exercise time, duration and intensity.

© John M. Martinez, M.D., Coastal Sports and Wellness Medical Center

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date: November 19, 2006

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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