Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fine to keep exercising when you have a head cold . . .

I had been wondering.

I exercise five or six times a week. I have never enjoyed exercising. I "just" realize it's something I've got to do.

One of my "secrets" for being as faithful as I am is the acquisition over five years ago of an exercise machine that cost us, at the time, more than any of the four Toyota Corollas we had purchased up to that point. Perhaps you have seen ads for it: the ROM [Range-of-Motion] Quick Gym.

"Crazy" price . . . but it was the promise to give me a complete workout in exactly four minutes a day that sold me on it. And after having spent that kind of money, I have to confess, there is no way I can afford not to exercise except under extreme circumstances.

So in the last five years, I can tell you, I have missed my normal five- or six-days-per-week exercise pattern only
  • When I have been on vacation or otherwise unavoidably away from home.
  • When I have been suffering from congested lungs. (I tend toward asthma two or three months a year, on average. If I find myself coughing pretty uncontrollably throughout the day despite using my inhaler, I will skip the ROM to do some less aerobically challenging exercise).
And, very rarely:
  • When I am feeling really, really sick.
Otherwise, however--and I would say that over the last five years that has been a good 90% of the time or more (even including the substantial quantity of travel I've been doing lately)--I'm using the ROM every morning. No excuses.

I record exactly what I do on the ROM each day, all my "splits" (how many strokes I am able to do each minute), my final score (total strokes; and the "percent of goal" I achieve), and what, specifically, I attempted to do each day (upper body or lower body, at what difficulty level, and how many minutes; the manufacturer suggests "only" 4 minutes, and that is what I did for five years--until the last couple of days of August, when my vitality and longevity doctor urged me to push it up to 6 or even 8 minutes [!!! deadly!!!]).

Well, a couple of weeks ago, two days after noting that I felt "lousy; swollen glands [in the neck, below the jaw]," I recorded the very worst performance I have ever had on the ROM . . . I mean, ever. Five percent worse than my next worst day ever. I completely "ran out of gas."


I have wondered in the past whether I should skip exercising when I feel lousy.

Well, I think I finally got "the answer."

From the New York Times: Don’t Starve a Cold of Exercise:
[T]wo little-known studies . . . 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.

The studies began, said Leonard Kaminsky, an exercise physiologist at Ball State University, when a trainer at the university, Thomas Weidner, wondered what he should tell athletes when they got colds.

The first question was: Does a cold affect your ability to exercise? To address that, the researchers recruited 24 men and 21 women ages 18 to 29 and of varying levels of fitness who agreed to be deliberately infected with a rhinovirus, which is responsible for about a third of all colds. Another group of 10 young men and women served as controls; they were not infected.

At the start of the study, the investigators tested all of the subjects, assessing their lung functions and exercise capacity. Then a cold virus was dropped into the noses of 45 of the subjects, and all caught head colds. Two days later, when their cold symptoms were at their worst, the subjects exercised by running on treadmills at moderate and intense levels. The researchers reported that having a cold had no effect on either lung function or exercise capacity. . . .

[Dr. Kaminsky] said he . . . tested the subjects at different points in the exercise sessions, from moderate to intense effort, and found that their colds had no effect on their metabolic responses.

Another question was: Does exercising when you have a cold affect your symptoms and recovery time?

Once again, Dr, Kaminsky and his colleagues infected volunteers with a rhinovirus. This time, . . . 34 young men and women . . . were randomly assigned to a group that would exercise with their colds and 16 others . . . were assigned to rest.

The group that exercised ran on treadmills for 40 minutes every other day at moderate levels of 70 percent of their maximum heart rates.

Every 12 hours, all the subjects in the study completed questionnaires about their symptoms and physical activity. The researchers collected the subjects’ used facial tissues, weighing them to assess their cold symptoms.

The investigators found no difference in symptoms between the group that exercised and the one that rested. And there was no difference in the time it took to recover from the colds. But when the exercisers assessed their symptoms, Dr. Kaminsky said, “people said they felt O.K. and, in some cases, they actually felt better.”

Now, Dr. Kaminsky said, he and others at Ball State encourage people to exercise when they have colds, at least if they have the type producing symptoms like runny noses and sneezing. He is more cautious about other types of colds that produce fevers or symptoms below the neck such as chest congestion.
There's more.

I think it's good and helpful information!
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