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Should you exercise when sick?

Fitness enthusiasts and endurance athletes alike are often uncertain of whether they should exercise or rest when sick. Although more research is needed, most sports medicine experts in this area recommend that if you have symptoms of a common cold with no fever (i.e., symptoms are above the neck), moderate exercise such as walking is probably safe.

Intensive exercise should be postponed until a few days after the symptoms have gone away. However, if there are symptoms or signs of the flu (i.e., fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, swollen lymph glands), then at least two weeks should probably be allowed before you resume intensive training.

Staying in shape to exercise

The following guidelines can help reduce their odds of getting sick.

  1. Eat a well-balanced diet. The immune system depends on many vitamins and minerals for optimal function. However, at this time, there is no good data to support supplementation beyond 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowances.
  2. Avoid rapid weight loss. Low-calorie diets, long-term fasting and rapid weight loss have been shown to impair immune function. Losing weight quickly is not good for the immune system.
  3. Obtain adequate sleep. Major sleep disruption (e.g., three hours less than normal) has been linked to immune suppression.
  4. Avoid over doing it. Space vigorous workouts apart as far apart as possible. Keep “within yourself” and don’t push beyond your ability to recover.

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