Exercise And The Immune System - Should You Workout When Sick?

Most athletes or avid exercisers will train through an illness or post training soreness even though the results limit advancement in their training goals.

Most athletes or avid exercisers will train through an illness or post training soreness even though the results limit advancement in their training goals. Science research supports the theory that the human immune response is at risk when overtraining occurs. According to a recent Ball State University study, a reduction in endurance training among athletes proved that rest and recovery were critical to optimal performance in training and competition. Those at higher risk of over training are endurance athletes or athletes that combine strength training with endurance training. These individuals are usually multifaceted athletes, runners, swimmers, cyclists, and fitness instructors who have employment commitments attached to their training.

This topic was of recent material was presented at the world's largest fitness convention, IDEA (International Dance and Exercise Association) in San Francisco, CA. IDEA is a founding organization for fitness professionals and represents more than 19,000 members, 60 countries worldwide. In the last few years, IDEA has recognized the need for awareness of exercise and its relationship to overtraining and illness. This awareness is in pursuit of educating the public on the proper use of training as a tool for health benefits, and as a word of caution for athletes as well. The lecture provided growing evidence that supports the deterioration of physical, chemical, and cell barriers when an athlete or avid exercisers are becoming overtrained. These barriers are antibodies found in the bone marrow, which are a direct threat to our ability to sustain long-term wellness. Also effected are cytotoxins, which mediate bacterial and viral defense. It is also known that the damage of antibodies has a direct effect on our ability to kick a viral or bacterial infection, and even avoid illness such as cancer.

Athletes must understand the signs of overtraining

Those at high risk of overtraining and becoming subject to possible cell damage are endurance training athletes or those who take part in heavy cardiovascular training. There is a window of opportunity when the immune response is low. This is the time when antibody production is decreased because the body is under physical stress and as a direct result, acute or chronic infections take place. The window of opportunity is 1-4 hours post-endurance training. At this time, white blood cells have decreased and do not come back up above normal until 8-12 hours post training. Illnesses that occur during this window of opportunity are upper and lower respiratory track infections. These infections can be either acute or chronic (long term or reoccurring). Overtrained athletes or avid exercisers commonly suffer from above-the-neck infections such as a common cold. It is critical for athletes and avid exercisers to understand the signs of overtraining and the benefits of rest during illness or post-training recovery.

Signs of overtraining are all too familiar to well-trained athletes, however, most of the time these signs are ignored. In addition, these athletes are under the supervision of professionals who write their training schedules, which protects the athlete. Most individuals who take part in rigorous exercise are unable to recognize the signs of overtraining, therefore must monitor their own warning signs. These signs are an increase in resting heart rate. One may also notice their training heart rate zone will be reached much sooner into a training period unless altitude is a factor. Fatigue and the inability to make progress in fitness goals are also warning signs.

Finally, there is no conclusive evidence that proves that exercise causes auto-immune disorders. There are however, many current and former world class endurance athletes who have testified to chronic health problems. Science research does prove that endurance-training athletes are at high risk of lowering their own immune response. There is however no evidence that yet proves strength training athletes are at any risk. Whether an individual is on a fat-burning quest or they are trained athletes, monitoring their exercise and pacing themselves through wellness are recommended.


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