If you’re like most people, you’re probably doing everything in your power to avoid getting sick this time of year. Infections, colds and viruses run rampant in the winter months, leading many people to wash their hands more often, get a flu shot, keep vitamin D levels up, and head to bed early for some extra sleep. However, even during flu season, it’s nearly impossible to go a day without hearing about the importance of daily exercise. And there’s a good reason for this!
Research shows that you can lower your number of sick days by working out regularly. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day has been shown to reduce the number of colds and lessen the severity of symptoms when illness does occur.
How can exercise support immune health?
- Exercise increases the number of white blood cells circulating in your body for a few hours, which may improve your chances of fighting off a virus.
- Also, working out helps combat stress by releasing endorphins that improve your mood and lower stress levels. This may help to given the negative effect that stress has on immune functioning.
Though moderate exercise is good, over-exercising or extremely intense exercise routines, such as marathon training, can actually decrease immune system functioning and leave you more susceptible to infection. So, if you train intensely, just be sure to take every precaution you can to keep your immune system healthy – get adequate sleep and eat a sound, balanced diet.
And finally, if you still find yourself feeling under the weather,
it’s important to know when to workout and when to rest.
Everyone is different, but in general you can use the “neck check”.
If all of your symptoms are above the neck, (sneezing, sore throat, etc), it’s probably ok to workout but you may need to reduce your intensity level depending on how you feel.
If your symptoms are below the neck (chills, diarrhea, swollen glands), it’s better to take some time off and let your body rest. If you have a fever, rest until your temperature is back to normal.