Firefighter Fitness- Should You Exercise While You're Sick?

  January 23, 2012

It’s that time of the year.  The flu bug is in full affect and is probably making its way through a firehouse near you.  We get exposed to lots of different viruses through EMS responses, hospital transports and via the close confines of the firehouse.  I get a lot of people asking me if they should try to exercise while they are battling the flu or the cold.

 According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the general rule of thumb is that if your symptoms are from the neck up; then “yes” give your workout a go.  If your symptoms are below; then “no.”
Here’s what I mean:
If you have a common cold, runny nose, sore throat, and/or NO fever, then light to moderate exercise is generally “ok.”
If your illness involves body aches, fever, diarrhea, weakness, swollen lymph nodes, and/ or fatigue then it’s best to “REST.”
Recommendations to help you get through a workout when you have a cold:
  • Hydrate!  Shoot for half your body weight in ounces of water per day
  • Stretch: increases circulation
  • Light cardio: Cardiovascular exercise causes vasodilatation or widening of the blood vessels to help clear up sinuses and cold symptoms.
  • Slow down: Decrease intensity & duration
  • Germs: Bring your own towel and water bottle and keep your germs to yourself!
Here are some tips to prevent getting the cold or flu:
  • WASH YOUR HANDS!  Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
  • Rest! Sleep as much as possible to allow the body to recover!
  • Increase antioxidants: load up on fruits and vegetables; focus on Vitamins A, C, E and Selenium
  • Cut sugar & caffeine: Both have been shown to weaken the immune system
  • Eliminate alcohol: I’m not saying to quit, I’m just saying alcohol weakens the immune system.
The bottom line is that you must “listen” to your body.   Personally, if I’m not feeling too bad, then I like to get a light cardio workout in to increase blood flow and circulation. If I choose to do strength work, I perform a low intensity workout to prevent too much muscle/body breakdown.
Hope these help.
Stay Safe and healthy!
Aaron Zamzow

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