Slow down if you have the flu

While a new study shows that exercise plays a big part in preventing some illnesses during cold and flu season, it’s not always a good idea to continue intense workouts when you do get sick.

While a new study shows that exercise plays a big part in preventing some illnesses during cold and flu season, it’s not always a good idea to continue intense workouts when you do get sick.

If you work out for 30 to 60 minutes most days, then the number of days you’re likely to be out sick during the cold and flu season this winter will be reduced by at least 40 per cent, according to Dr. David Nieman of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.

In two controlled studies, one of young and the other of elderly women, those who walked briskly for 35-45 minutes five days a week for 12 to 15 weeks experienced about half the days with cold symptoms as did the women in the sedentary control groups, he said.

But if you do get the sniffles, should you work out? That depends, says Dr. Moira Davenport, who practices sports medicine and emergency medicine at Pittsburgh-based Allegheny General Hospital, and Dr. Jeanne Doperak, a sports-medicine and family-practice physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“If you have just a little head cold, it’s all right to exercise,” Davenport said. “But it should be more of a moderate effort, just enough to get your blood flowing but not so much to stress your immune system.”

Both doctors agreed that people should not exercise when they have a fever or if they have the generalized muscle aches and pains and other symptoms that accompany flu.