I have a cold. Should I continue going to the gym and getting in a workout, or is it better to wait until I'm feeling better?
'Elliot, Albuquerque, N.M.
If you're asking the question, it's probably a good idea to take some time off. Unfortunately, there's precious little scientific research on the subject of working out when you have a cold, and to my knowledge, it hasn't been studied for those of us who are living with HIV.
The two studies that do exist'published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise a decade ago'explored whether having a cold affected your ability to exercise, made symptoms worse, or affected recovery time. Leonard Kaminsky, an exercise physiologist at Ball State University, led the study.
The results? There was zero effect on lung function or exercise capacity and no difference in cold symptoms or recovery time. In fact, 'people said they felt OK and, in some cases, they actually felt better,' Kaminsky told The New York Times. He actually encourages people to work out if they're just sneezing or have a runny nose, but he cautions against exercising with symptoms below the neck, such as a chest cold or a productive cough. Keep in mind that none of the subjects in these two studies were HIV-positive.
My general rule: Listen to your body.
I instruct clients not to do cardio as long as they're experiencing upper-respiratory symptoms. And never exercise with a fever.
Personally, when I'm sick I stop all exercise until I'm back to baseline. As someone living with HIV, I don't push myself while my body is recovering. My own physician tells me that I'm most contagious during the first two or three days of a cold, so by staying home I'm helping to prevent my clients and other people in the gym from getting sick. By resting, I speed up my healing time so that I can get back in the gym faster.
Page is a certified fitness trainer and journalist. As president of Sam Page Fitness, he operates three private studios in Southern California. He contributes to several national and international magazines and also publishes a weekly e-newsletter from SamPageFitness.com and a daily blog at PeaceLoveLunges.com.