8 Flu-Fighting Strategies That’ll Keep Bugs Away
By Jessica Girdwain
Yes, it’s true: exercise can thwart illness – but not all sweat sessions are equally fierce.
When you get into a workout groove, everything runs as it should, including your ability to fend off an invading cold or flu. “Moderate exercise helps boost immunity by increasing the movement of immune cells, which seek and destroy viruses and bacteria,” says Prof David Nieman, a specialist in health and exercise. But get this: if your sweat session is long or intense, your risk of catching something – for up to 72 hours afterwards – is as much as six times greater. For your next workout, follow these bug-fighting strategies.
Pop A Multivitamin
A busy schedule can cause unbalanced eating habits – but a daily multivitamin can help fill in missing vitamins and minerals and possibly help support your immune system, says Dr Lewis Maharam, author of Running Doc’s Guide To Healthy Running.
Catch Some Zs
A good snooze is vital to your muscles’ repair process – and it’s just as constructive for your immunity: clocking less than seven hours a night makes you three times more likely to catch a cold than if you get eight hours or more, found a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Fatigue is a warning sign of overtraining, which can tank your immunity. Before you exercise, rate yourself on a scale of one to five (one being totally energised, five being completely exhausted). At three or four, cut back on your planned workout’s intensity or duration. At five, stay home. “Taking a day or two off won’t impact your training,” says Prof Jeffrey Woods, who specialises in the relationship between exercise and immunity.
Exercising when your blood sugar is low prompts your body to rebound with more wellness-bashing stress hormones. If your workout will last an hour or more, plan to consume 60g carbs – that’s a cup of sports drink or half a banana (about 15g carbs) every 15 to 30 minutes of exercise. A study found that both are equally effective in fuelling athletes and preventing post-exercise inflammation.
Watch Your Pace
If you’re training for an endurance event like a marathon or triathlon, longer workouts will get you accustomed to being on your feet (or bicycle seat) for extended periods of time. But don’t go crazy. Run, pedal or swim at a moderate pace, since pushing too hard or fast mimics the immune-depleting effects of the actual event.
Listen To Your Body
You’re no wuss, but if fatigue makes you lose your form, that’s a sign you could be exerting yourself beyond your threshold. Take a minute or two to catch your breath, then get back into your workout at a slightly lower intensity.
Fend Off Germs
This should be obvious, but just in case: proper hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of germs, especially right after a long workout, when your immune system may be compromised. Wash your hands often and keep them away from your face. At work, use disinfectant wipes once a week on your phone, stapler – anything that’s shared.
Eat Your Greens
Make like Popeye and fill up on spinach (or pak choi, Brussels sprouts or kale), advises Dr Joel Fuhrman, author of Super Immunity: “The antioxidants boost your resistance to viral infections.” Aim for at least two servings of green goodness a day.