One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Whole house affected by flu?   Check.  I wrote this post while sitting next to a mountain of crumpled tissues, 4 blankets that I use and remove intermittently as I wavered from sweats to chills, and a survival kit of Theraflu, nasal spray, neti pot (which is apparently NOT for tea in spite of striking resemblance), and Ricolaaaaaa, wondering what I touched in the last few days that ended up sealing my doom on the living room couch for 48 hours straight.  Was it a doorknob?  A sippie cup?  No wait, it was the treadmill!  Note to self:  To be on safe side, don’t ever touch treadmill again.  Ok, the real question is, during cold, cough, and flu season, when is it safe and healthy to exercise and when is it not?   Since my gut reaction was to burn the treadmill that was undoubtedly the source of infection, I perhaps am not the best person to answer this question.  Instead, I refer to expert physical therapist, Julie Mulcahy, MPT @PTrunningmomof4 for advice.  Here is a transcript of our interview.

Sherry:  What symptoms are safe to exercise during?

Julie:  If you just have mild cold symptoms and you feel that you have normal appetite and energy, it is ok to engage in mild exercise, such as a light walk. It may be best to avoid vigorous exercise until symptoms completely remit.

Sherry:  When should I definitely NOT exercise?

Julie:  Regular exercise of at least 30 minutes per day can strengthen the immune system. However when you are sick and attempt to exercise it can possibly exacerbate or prolong an illness because of stress on your immune system. If you are fighting illness and overexert you can weaken your body’s defenses.. You should definitely not exercise when you have a fever or an infection. If you have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, you should also avoid exercise and only proceed when your diet has returned to normal and you are fully hydrated.

Sherry:  When I have had the flu or high fever, when is it safe for me to resume exercising?

Julie:  It is best to wait until you have had no fever for a few days and no sign of infection before beginning to exercise again. For example, green or yellow mucous from the nose or chest is a sign of infection that you should not exercise during.  Your normal diet should have resumed and energy levels should be back.  Make sure to drink plenty of water when resuming exercise after illness. Always start with light exercise because vigorous exercise can stress your immune system.

Sherry:  Will exercising outside in the cold increase my risk for getting sick?

Julie:  No, but you should dress properly for the conditions.  Clothing that wicks moisture away from the body is helpful in colder temperatures.    A large portion of body heat can escape through your head, so be sure to wear a hat. You should avoid going out in dangerously cold temperatures.

Sherry: What other advice do you have for exercising in the winter?

Julie:  In terms of outdoor exercising, people often forget that hydration is just as important in the cold than it is in the heat.  Always be sure to hydrate!  It is also important to be sure you have a clean and safe route to walk, run, or bike.  Beware of ice and snow that can increase risk of serious falls. I recommend using inexpensive traction devices which you attach to your shoe. These devices help to promote traction while walking or running in snowy conditions. Be advised that snow shoveling can be a very aggressive, intense activity and can present significant risks, such as heart attack, if you are not conditioned.   If you do not like the snow and cold, you might consider walking at a local high school indoor track or at the mall.  Negotiate a partial membership at your local gym just for the winter months if you do not want to use it year round. Either way, stay warm, fit, and healthy this season!

Thank you Julie!

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