Should you run when you're sick?

Studies show that exercise can help or hurt your immune system -- and it's okay to run through some symptoms but not others.

This week’s Jockology column takes a look at how exercise affects your chances of staying healthy during the cold and flu season, and what happens if you exercise when you’re already sick:

The question

Will working out help me beat the flu?

The answer

As cold and flu season kicks into high gear, so too does the search for an immunity edge.

Recent studies offer plenty of evidence that regular exercise really does strengthen immune function – a claim that can’t be made for most of the pills and potions whose sales spike at about this time of year. But like any powerful medicine, exercise also carries the risk of an overdose.

“It’s what experts call the ‘J-curve’ hypothesis,” says Brian Timmons, a researcher at McMaster University’s Children’s Exercise and Nutrition Centre. “Moderate intensity is good, but too much exercise is not so good.”

Exercise also turns out to be a mixed blessing if you do get sick: harmless and possibly even helpful for some symptoms, but not recommended for others.[read more…]

An important point made by a commenter on the Globe site: if you’re contagious, you definitely shouldn’t head to the gym and infect other people!

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