You know the feeling. You’re tired, out of sorts and feeling run down. Was it some food you recently ate? Perhaps it was the lack of green vegetables in the spread. Maybe it’s the drastic change in temperatures that comes with the seasons. Or, it could be from not drinking enough water, or from not taking a multivitamin daily for the immune system.
Your immune system, your body’s natural defense system, is down and you are getting sick or already have a full blown cold. Is it a good idea to continue working out and running if you think you might be getting sick?
The Immune System
Running and Immune System
That three mile run that you had planned now seems like an insurmountable task. Walking three miles may even be too much to take on. I don’t get sick very often, but I have felt many times a cold coming and have stopped dead in my tracks to try and ward it off. I begin examining every morsel entering my mouth, take a step back and examine my routine.
- Can I be getting more sleep?
- Or can I take some tasks of my plate to relieve stress?
- Am I eating a healthy diet?
When it comes to the common cold and mild illnesses, having a strong immune system can make recovery quick or drag it out. There’s a lot of debate over if continuing to work out or exercise while sick, or while starting to feel sick, is the best idea. I wanted to look into this further, especially in regard to distance running.
What Weakens the Immune System?
It’s one thing to run a few miles but running longer distances can really take a toll on the body and most runners want their bodies in top performing shape. I did a little research on the topic and turned to one great reference, Runner’s World.
It was no surprise then that when I researched the impact running has on the immune system. I saw Runner’s World was right on target with covering the same topic. The last thing any of us wants is to get sick. But what is even worse is getting sick while training for a big race, or on race day.
“But isn’t running supposed to make you healthy? While 30 to 45 minutes of moderate daily exercise does stimulate the immune system, the rigors of running longer distances temporarily weakens it. During the strain of a hard run, the body churns out the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function in large amounts.” – Runner’s World
The article goes on to suggest several methods to reduce your chances of getting ill including: replacing a long run with a shorter high-intensity workout (which will compromise your immune system less), managing stress in your life, eating right and getting enough sleep.
Running Weakens Immune System?
According to experts, the 72-hours following a race leaves your body most vulnerable to illness. Take note, athletes. I’ll definitely be taking the 72-hour tidbit to heart after my next race.
Running is a lot like stress. Instead of stressing the body in a mental or emotional way, it provides physical taxation on the body, and stress can weaken the immune system. When stepping back from hard training or long runs, be sure to work on other areas of wellness including getting enough rest, diet and more.
Running Immune System
While exercise is generally good for the immune system, both professional and amateur athletes should practice discretion with their workouts. Too much of a good thing is possible even with exercise.
Too much exercise and running can tax the immune system and leave the body more vulnerable. As with most things, its important to listen to your body, rest if you feel you need the down time and not push yourself too much.
Do you workout while sick?
*This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.