Exercise isn't just for weight loss or building muscle. Obviously, it's great for those things, but exercise also provides a host of other benefits -- both physical and mental.
Exercise boosts your brainpower by increasing serotonin, which makes you more productive. It also decreases stress levels and gives you more energy via endorphin release. Even better, regular exercise keeps you healthier and slows down progression of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and loss of muscle mass. Keep up your exercise plan and you'll find yourself with a strengthened cardiovascular system.
But what about running in particular? Running burns the most calories of just about any type of exercise you might do at the gym. It also helps prevent osteoarthritis in your knees. Running bolsters cartilage and strengthens ligaments around your joints by increasing oxygen flow and flushing out toxins. That said, you should always take care to treat an injured knee and never continue to run when you have a joint or knee injury without seeing a doctor first.
Even though it may be OK to work out with a cold, you should understand and respect your personal limits. If you're feeling weak and can't perform to your usual ability, it might be time to take a break until you feel better. Exercise can aggravate an existing infection. Also, if your performance is diminished, you're losing the benefit of the workout anyway.
A sinus infection, for example, does fall into the "above the neck rule," but some doctors advise against running while you have one. You probably won't even feel like running when you're suffering from a sinus infection, but the standard advice is to wait it out for three days. Some sinus infections can lead to pneumonia.
You can't "sweat out" a fever by running, either. If your fever is above 99 degrees Fahrenheit, you probably should stay home. Exercising with a fever will put you on a fast track toward dehydration, so be careful.
If, despite your best efforts to stay well, you get sick, here are a few tips for a speedy recovery. When suffering from a cold or flu, try to do the following:
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Gargle with warm water.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Take zinc lozenges at the first sign of sickness.
- Regularly take multi-vitamins.
- Use a humidifier at night.
- Listen to your body.
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