Pre-flu season exercise: what are the benefits?

A new season brings on the flu season, but did you know that exercise is one of the best immunity boosters? Regular exercise increases the response of your immune system as infection-fighting cells can triple in number to battle cold and flu bugs. All it takes is 20-30 minutes of high to moderate exercise per day. Studies have also shown that even if you experience symptoms, a small amount of exercise can make the infection less severe.

Boost your immunity with low intensity exercise
Boost your immunity with low intensity exercise

The importance of recovery

As a general rule, if your symptoms are above the neck low intensity exercise is fine. Sweating can actually help your immune system to kill the viruses. However, vigorous exercise without recovery will make you more susceptible to infections. When your immune system is stressed or overloaded it won’t protect you from cold and flu effectively. Stress hormones negatively affect the immune system when you are fighting a cold.

When not to exercise

It is important to listen to your body. If you have a chest infection, cough or wheeze this is a sign that you should see a doctor before you attempt any kind of exercise. If during a workout you experience trouble breathing, shortness of breath, light-headedness or poor balance it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Your body needs to rest and recover. Exerting yourself will make you more vulnerable to viral infection. Avoid exercise if you experience symptoms below the neck such as:

  • Fever
  • Body aches/pains
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pains
  • Chest pains

Don’t head off to the gym if you’re experiencing any kind of symptoms. Viruses live on the equipment for hours and spread through contact. To avoid catching something while at the gym, bring a towel, wipe equipment before and after use (some gyms have sprays and paper towels) and avoid touching your face until you’ve washed your hands with disinfectant.

What else can I do?

  • Take essential vitamins
  • Sleep and rest
  • Do stretches – stretching is an example of a low intensity exercise, walk around stretch your arms, legs and back to prevent muscle stiffening.
  • Take a break for a few days
  • Drink tea – particularly Green Tea which is high in antioxidants and can aid your immune system in fighting off illness.

When you start to feel better, ease back into your routine and don’t overdo it. The general rule is “if you can do it, do it. If you can’t, don’t.”

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