Thursday, March 12, 2020

A Workout Could Be Good Medicine for the Common Cold

It might be the last thing you want to do when you are battling a cold, but exercise might actually make you feel better, suggests one health expert.

Here's why: Physical activity boosts your heart rate and promotes healthy blood flow, and it also opens up your lungs and releases endorphins, said Dr. Jayson Loeffert, a sports medicine physician at Penn State Health in Hershey, Pa.

If you feel tired sooner than normal, reduce your exercise intensity to what you can tolerate, he advised.

"If you are really congested or wheezing, you might be short of breath, so you'll want to decrease the intensity," Loeffert said in a Penn State Health news release.

Severe fatigue or uncontrolled coughing are indications that it's time to take a break.

Certain settings may pose challenges. Some people with colds may have trouble breathing when exercising outdoors in cold, dry air and may need to work out indoors until they're better, Loeffert said.

Also, swimmers with congestion may have more difficulty with their breathing, and the chlorine in a pool can make the congestion worse.

No Matter Your Age, Flexibility is a Must!

Flexibility is a component of all types of movement -- from everyday activities to the most rigorous exercises. Being flexible helps you stay mobile and avoid injury.

Yet flexibility training often gets lost in the shuffle or pushed to the bottom of the list after cardio and strength training.

Its goal is to increase your range of motion -- how far you can reach when, for instance, you bend from side to side, or raise your arm overhead to grab an item from a high shelf.

Flexibility is best achieved through static stretching, which are stretches you ease into and hold for 10 to 30 seconds while inhaling and exhaling -- no bouncing, no holding your breath.

As you start a stretch, focus mentally on the muscles you're targeting. Extend just to the point of discomfort; you shouldn't feel any pain.

Here are three moves that target the lower body.

The Best Time of Day for Exercise

Many studies have tried to pinpoint the best time of day to exercise for peak performance and best results. But most of these studies were designed for elite athletes.

For general fitness, exercise can be whenever it's most convenient for you. In fact, the best time of day for exercise is whatever time you can do it consistently. That's because fitness benefits come from working out on a regular basis.

Consider factors like work and home responsibilities, your energy level at various times during the day, and what type of exercise you like best when picking your "prime time" for fitness workouts.

If you're a morning person whose energy fizzles by 3 p.m., start your day with a workout, even if it means waking up a half-hour early. If you need a workout buddy to stay motivated, schedule exercise when it's easiest for both of you. If you like solitude, try off-peak hours at your gym or create your own at-home workout space.

Remember that you can break up daily activity into three 10-minute segments if that's what it takes to get it all in. Park 10 minutes away from work and walk briskly to the building. Do 10 minutes of desk exercises at lunch. Then walk back to your car to go home, and you're done for the day.

Or take a walk during your mid-morning break, your lunch hour and just before or after dinner.

The only caveat is to not exercise too close to bedtime, or you could become too revved up to fall asleep. Allow at least two hours before you go to bed -- more if you need longer to wind down.

The American Heart Association has more on when to work out to meet your goals.