The worst and best advice for
working out during cold and flu season
Fitness expert and celebrity trainer Brent Bishop wants
to help you stay fit and hopefully avoid getting sick
Can exercise really prevent a cold? Is it safe to exercise outdoors during chilly weather? “I’ve heard it all,” comments fitness expert and celebrity trainer Brent Bishop. “Some people look for excuses to skip a workout while others insist on exercising even when they should probably not.” Bishop has gathered some of the worst and best advice he’s heard over the years about working out during cold and flu season.
To avoid getting sick, stay away from the gym during cold and flu season. “People often don’t realize it’s not the weather that makes you sick. It’s the germs. Cold weather doesn’t really suppress the immune system. You have to come into contact with the virus or germs to become sick. It’s good to use the gym. Just make sure you wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth during your workout.”
Never exercise if you’re tired. “If it’s just a day or two where you don’t feel rested, it’s still important to stay active. If you feel too tired to do your fitness routine first thing in the morning, try doing it during your lunch break or after work. It may actually improve your ability to sleep. But if you’re going through a chronic time of terrible sleep, try to figure out why that’s happening. Otherwise your immune system may be impacted by sleep deprivation.”
Stop exercising if you have a minor cold. “A lot of people will use the sniffles or a small cough as an excuse not to workout. You can still exercise but at a lower intensity. In fact, your immune system might benefit from the activity. But if your illness is below the neck, or you have a sore throat, fever or chills, you will benefit from taking a few days off.”
Exercise regularly to support your immune system. “Post-exercise, your immune system tends to be more alert for a couple of hours. Over time, those who exercise regularly tend to have stronger immune systems than those who are sedentary. Just be cautious of high-intensity exercise. It can temporarily make your body more susceptible to becoming sick. So, you don’t necessarily want to tax your immune system by doing aggressive hill sprints then spend time at your child’s daycare, for example.”
It’s okay to exercise in cold weather, as long as you take the right precautions. “Some people assume they have a greater chance of getting sick by exercising outdoors in the winter. As long as you’re exercising moderately, eating well, using proper hygiene and getting adequate sleep, you should be fine. Being proactive and supplementing with Jamieson’s Cold Fighter for example can really help up the anti. Cold Fighter helps boost your immune system with four natural cold-fighting ingredients.”
Working out can help your body cope with stress. “When you’re going through hard times, the stress can definitely tax your immune system. And if stress keeps you from getting adequate sleep, your body may not be able to recover properly. That makes your chances of catching a cold even worse. Exercise can help decrease stress levels and increase the quality of your sleep. That’s an indirect boost to your immune system.”
Bishop stresses that consistency matters. “You can’t exercise for one day and expect to have a stronger immune system. Always strive for 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise, five days a week.”
Brent Bishop is a national on-air fitness expert, celebrity trainer, published author and brand ambassador for New Balance Canada. He is also the founder of Think Fitness Studios, performance-inspired conditioning centers in Toronto.