From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Sticking to a regular workout schedule can be a challenge, but it doesn't help when sickness throws your plans out of sync. A runny nose, sore throat, coughing and sneezing, aches and pains can leave you with little energy and a desire to stay in bed. Yet even when you feel under the weather, you can benefit from light to moderate physical activity.

A common myth is that the cold weather causes people to get sick. On the contrary, one of the best things you can do is get outside and do some light or moderate activity to stave off illness. However, there are some things you need to consider when working out when you're not feeling up to par:

Keep it simple. Research shows that light or moderate activity will help prevent you from getting a cold in the first place, or reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms. Be aware that vigorous activity may reverse the protective benefits by compromising your immune system further.

Stay hydrated. When you are feeling sick, it's important to drink plenty of liquids. When you are doing activity in the cold, you may not notice that you are sweating because the cold air and wind is keeping your body cool.

Know your limit. If you have a fever, nausea, diarrhea, or any other symptom of something more serious than a cold, take time off until you are feeling better.

Here are two simple, low-impact activities you can do to help you get back on your feet fast:

Snow-hiking. Going for a walk in snowy conditions can be fun and challenging if you find the right area. The key is to go to a place where the snow is between 10 to 30 cm deep and there is a wide expanse to walk. With each step, lift your foot so it clears the snow. The challenge of maintaining your balance and adjusting to the uneven surface while lifting your leg will engage your core muscles (abdominals and obliques) and all muscles of the legs more than a normal walk would.

Ice-skating. Like cycling, it's easy  to just coast along after gaining speed. But if you start, stop and change direction, you'll get the most out of your skating and keep your heart pumping. Every 30 to 60 seconds, stop your skate and accelerate back up to a speed. When changing direction control your turn and maintain your speed by striding through the entire process. This will give your skate some natural intervals and keep your legs moving. When you need a break, continue to skate at a lower speed with fewer strides.

Try these 11 other ways to stay active in winter.

During the winter, it's important to dress in layers: start with a wick-a-way undergarment, followed by a sweater or fleece, then top it off with a water- and wind-proof jacket. Make sure you wear weatherproof boots, and cover your head and hands, too.

Before starting any new activity program, be sure to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional.

Matthew Mayer is an exercise physiologist.

Posted: January 2011

Heart and Stroke Foundation


Your use of the information in this article is subject to the Heart and Stroke Foundation Terms and Conditions of Use and therefore you agree to be bound by the implied terms and conditions in each of the following statements.

This article has been independently researched, written and reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and is based on scientific evidence. The information is for reference and education only. This web article is not intended to be a substitute for a physician’‘s advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician for specific information on personal health matters. The Heart and Stroke Foundation assumes no responsibility or liability arising from any error in, or omission of, information or from the use of any information or advice contained within this article.

™ - All trademarks, service marks, logos and articles are owned by and are the exclusive property of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada ("HSFC") and authorized use is only granted under license. Such trademarks, service marks, logos and articles may not be reproduced, copied, imitated or used, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of HSFC.

© - 2011. Reproduced with permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada