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Is it better to exercise or not with a cold?


creekland
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I know rest is the old school way of thinking, but I also know several things have changed recently regarding how good exercise is for the body.

 

Has it changed with colds too?

 

Obviously, chores need to be done (cue commercial with me telling ponies - "Sorry, Farmer needs a sick day!"  But hubby and I usually get a mile or two in walking on top of daily activities if weather and time permit.  Should that still be on our agenda for a "quick recovery" or should we let it go for a couple of days?  (Both of us have this cold...)

 

FWIW - if it matters - merely going upstairs will raise my heartrate to 100 and drop the blood oxygen to 89 (60s-70s and 95-97 are my norm).  It's playing with my new toy (Samsung Health on the phone) that got me wondering as I'm planning my day - well, that and noticing I got a little bit out of breath on yesterday's walk... 

 

Does it help or hurt recovery to push the body in small amounts like walks?

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I think as long as you are able to breathe, continuing with your usual exercise is fine. I'm not sure if it's still the same advice, but I remember being told that if the congestion is mostly above the neck, regular exercise is fine, if it's below the neck in your lungs, you should rest more.

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If you feel up to it I don't see the problem.  If you don't...no big deal either.  I don't know the official answer, but taking a couple of days off to feel better doesn't strike me as a big deal.

 

For me, the only risk of taking time off from my routine is I won't get back into my routine.  I'm trying really really hard to work on that part.  But there is no actual detriment to taking a day off in terms of your physical fitness or health.

 

 

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I think it depends on where you are in the progression of the cold too.  There usually is a day or two where it is really wicked bad.  The rest is kinda middle of the road.  I can't imagine exercising during the very bad day or two.  You can feel quite run down. 

 

 

Edited by SparklyUnicorn
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I think as long as you are able to breathe, continuing with your usual exercise is fine. I'm not sure if it's still the same advice, but I remember being told that if the congestion is mostly above the neck, regular exercise is fine, if it's below the neck in your lungs, you should rest more.

 

 

That's what I've heard.  

 

I wouldn't push it, either way.  I'd do what needs to be done, but wouldn't choose a day with a cold to go on a hike.

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I think as long as you are able to breathe, continuing with your usual exercise is fine. I'm not sure if it's still the same advice, but I remember being told that if the congestion is mostly above the neck, regular exercise is fine, if it's below the neck in your lungs, you should rest more.

 

This is what I've heard, too.  I also go by how I feel.  Some colds just wipe me out and I know my body needs rest so I don't exercise.  Other times a cold can be more of a nuisance and I will continue with my workouts.  

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Well, we went on our morning walk (1 mile) after finishing chores - mainly because I wanted to see my body's response.  (We science-minded folks can get on rabbit trails incredibly easily, esp with new toys.)

 

Immediately after the walk the heart rate was 119, but blood oxygen was up to 96% so the heart is doing it's job.  

 

After showering and sitting down here to look at the news and Hive, the heart rate is still 107 which definitely sounds weird after being used to 60s or 70s.  I used to think 80s were fast.  (Note - I can literally hear my pulse when it's quiet - hence the "sounds weird."  One notices when things are outside of average I suspect.  It's probably also why this is on my mind and doesn't interest hubby at all.  On a normal day where I'd be at work or something I probably wouldn't have noticed either due to all the activity and noise.)

 

I'll admit to feeling a little better, but the fact that I took a Sudafed capsule at 10:30 is probably a confounding variable there.   :lol:

 

I guess I'll wait until this afternoon to decide whether to take a second walk or not.  Normally we'd have done 2 miles with this first one, but not knowing if it helps or hurts we opted to split the difference.

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Sudafed can raise heart rate.

 

True - and that's when my heart rate tends to be in the 70s and 80s - even when not sick - when just taking it for scuba purposes or whatever.

 

I suspect it's also helping me feel a bit better overall and can't just give the credit to the exercise.  It reduces the extra pressure in the head/sinuses and does it fairly well - definitely worth the price.

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True - and that's when my heart rate tends to be in the 70s and 80s - even when not sick - when just taking it for scuba purposes or whatever.

 

I suspect it's also helping me feel a bit better overall and can't just give the credit to the exercise.  It reduces the extra pressure in the head/sinuses and does it fairly well - definitely worth the price.

 

Yep

 

Although with colds I find I feel worse early in the morning and late at night.  Middle of the day it's usually not as bad.

 

Not sure why exactly that is.

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I think it depends on where you are in the progression of the cold too.  There usually is a day or two where it is really wicked bad.  The rest is kinda middle of the road.  I can't imagine exercising during the very bad day or two.  You can feel quite run down. 

 

 

Yes, I was going to say something along these lines.  I have a weak immune system, and colds seem to hit me harder than most people.  I definitely have several days ("wicked bad" - yeah, that!) where exercise is completely out of the question.  

 

But on the other hand, I've also learned that if I wait until I feel like exercising again, I'll never start exercising again!

 

So I think there must be a happy medium, where you give your body rest when that's clearly what it needs, but when you feel you've turned that corner and are starting to recover, gently push yourself to get active again.  Of course, that's going to work out a little differently for different people.  So in the end, I have no helpful advice to offer at all!  :lol:

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One time, I had a cold. I wasn't feeling tired, so I decided a game of racquetball (lots of running around that I'm not used to) would be good for me. I ended up sicker, with a deep bronchial cough for about two weeks longer. 

 

So now, when I'm sick, I don't exercise until I can at least breathe easily again. 

 

So there's a little anecdote for you.

 

FWIW I got a cold about 2 weeks ago, and it turned into the same deep wheezy cough. That without me doing any exercise during my illness. But I refuse to go to the gym until I can breathe again, just in case it gets worse :D

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I don't think it's better or worse either way. It depends on how you feel.

 

I'll admit I was hoping for some scientific studies on it.  Perhaps there haven't been any?  Perhaps we're all so different (how our bodies react to viruses) that there is no clear answer?

 

I guess I was wondering if mild exercise would help via better blood flow - or hurt due to taxing the body when it really needs to put its resources toward fighting the invaders.

 

Oh well.  I still need to decide if I'm heading out on another walk to get my second mile in...

 

I've been doing nothing but sitting here since 12:30(ish) - watching TV, talking with my mom, playing games on the computer - and the heart rate is still 100 with the oxygen percentage down to 93%.  It's pretty amazing how the body works to fight off a virus - making adjustments as it can - homeostasis in action.  I just wish I knew how to give it a boost.

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I'll admit I was hoping for some scientific studies on it.  Perhaps there haven't been any?  Perhaps we're all so different (how our bodies react to viruses) that there is no clear answer?

 

 

 

I don't recall seeing any but maybe I just didn't look hard enough. It would be an interesting issue to study though, wouldn't it? 

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I don't recall seeing any but maybe I just didn't look hard enough. It would be an interesting issue to study though, wouldn't it? 

 

I think so.  I've seen studies on exercise and injury (back, etc) and lately exercise and concussions (I suppose that's still an injury), but not exercise and viruses.

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For me, it depends on the exercise. If I have a tennis match scheduled, I will do almost anything to get there and play because I love it. Even if I have to drag my body home, it's worth it.  :D  If the exercise is walking the dog in -15 with wind chill, I'll pass and go to bed just to prove it to myself that I need rest. ;) 

Edited by wintermom
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I think as long as you are able to breathe, continuing with your usual exercise is fine. I'm not sure if it's still the same advice, but I remember being told that if the congestion is mostly above the neck, regular exercise is fine, if it's below the neck in your lungs, you should rest more.

 

This is my general rule of thumb.  Along with listen to your body and if you start to feel like crud, tone it down or quit.  Generally I find exercising gets the congestion warmed up and moving (sorry to be gross). 

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When I was really into running, the (research based) rule of thumb was --- if it's above the neck, you're good to go (full workout); if it's below the neck, you need to rest. 

 

So, snotty head is fine to run (just be prepared to send snot rockets into the woods). Actually, exercise tends to do a great job of clearing sinuses. But, if you have a bad chest cold, take a chill, and get in bed!

 

Likewise, body chills/fever, etc, is below the neck, and for sure requires "relative" rest, if not full on couch-ridden rest. 

 

That said, "rest" in these terms means "relative rest", not sitting on your butt. So, if you usually run 5 miles, maybe you'd run 2 or 3 at a slower than normal pace. Scheduled for 40 miles this week . . . maybe do 25 and skip the speed workouts and shorten your long run. Or maybe you'd just go for a nice hike or walk some days in place of a more serious endeavor. 

 

In my general experience, a couple/few mile nice walk never hurt anybody unless you're really disabled by an injury or severe illness. 

 

 

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Well, whether walking the mile helped or not (never did that second mile), or maybe it was the Cold Eeze I've taken every night since Thursday night, either way - or combo of both - I'm very happy to report that the cold is essentially gone this morning.  I came down with it Friday - gone by Monday.  Whatever else might be wrong, I'm quite pleased with the efficiency of my immune system - esp since hubby came down with his on Tuesday and still has it.  (Poor guy!)

 

To add data... he did every walk I did when I was sick - and a couple more we both did when he was sick and I wasn't.  He does Cold Eeze some, but not as often.  He doesn't work at school, so isn't exposed to as many of our virus "friends" as I am and he gets less sleep on a regular basis.  Or maybe there was something special in the Chinese Moo Goo Gai Pan I ate last night - some special Oriental cure?   :lol: (He had Beef Chow Mai Fun.)

 

One can use the data point however one wishes.  I'm just glad to be starting my week feeling like myself again and not needing an endless supply of tissues!

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If I have a mild cold, I feel better after I exercise. However, if I'm feeling sick to the point that stairs feel like effort I don't bother. I believe in the healing power of sleep and think that in some situations a nap is more beneficial than a walk. I'm not sure you can always know until after you DO the exercise and see if it was a boost or a mistake. :-/

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for me - it depends upon how sick I am, and what specific exercise I'm doing.   painful experience taught me to really listen to my body lest I make it worse.

 

I do know a woman who ran all through her treatment for hodgkins - and feels it made everything easier for her.

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That must be what hubby is doing wrong!   :lol:  :lol:  :lol:

 

At the moment, he's out working on his sailboat (a freebie he was given this winter - he's in love).

 

 

....unless they have a sailboat (or other toy critically important project) they need to get on.

 

Happiness is quite curative.

 

Bill

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