Friday, January 9, 2009

Don’t Starve a Cold of Exercise

“You have what seems to be a really bad cold. You are coughing and sneezing, and it is hard to breathe. And if you do, should you push yourself as hard as ever or take it easy? Will exercise have no effect, or make you feel better or worse? It is a question, surprisingly enough, that stumps many exercise physiologists and infectious disease specialists. ‘That question has not been actually studied,’ said Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society and the president of New Island Hospital in Bethpage, N.Y. Many avid exercisers make up their own rules, and it seems that many of them, like Dr. Michael Joyner, an exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic who is a swimmer and runner, decide to keep exercising if they possibly can. ‘I can tell you that unless I am really wiped out, I still work out but maybe scale back a bit,’ Dr. Joyner said. ‘I think that would be the answer from most relatively hard-core, old-school types.’ ‘If I have an obvious fever and muscle aches,’ he continued, ‘I do very little or take a day or two off, but I really have to be in a bad way to skip more than that.’ Dr. Bill Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University and a member of the board of directors of the Infectious Diseases Society, said he was unaware of any studies that addressed the issue. Dr. Schaffner described himself as a jogger who runs a few miles most days and goes to a gym for resistance training. And, he said, he continues his workouts when he has a cold. Exercise, he said, makes him feel better. He speculates that perhaps it is because his blood vessels are dilated when he exercises. ‘I think exercise pushes me along a route to recovery,’ Dr. Schaffner said. ‘Of course, I recognize that I might have been on a route to recovery anyway. But I can’t think of a reason why exercise would affect you adversely.’ It turns out that, even though they were unaware of them, the strategies of people like Dr. Schaffner and Dr. Joyner are actually supported by two little-known studies that were published a decade ago in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Results from the studies were so much in favor of exercise that the researchers themselves were surprised.”

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