Training Compromising Immunity?

author : AMSSM
comments : 0

Recurring illness is a continuing source of frustration, and seems to be caused by training.

Member Question:

"I have found that every time I increase the frequency or duration of my training, my health takes a turn for the worse and I usually come down with a flu-like illness or mild bacterial infection. Occasionally a severe bout of sickness. At the moment I'm recovering from a severe flu, but before this I was doing a couple of 5k runs per week, one or two ~1.5km swims, and a 30-50km ride - all at medium intensity. In other words, not a heavy training load.

I eat well, sleep a reasonable amount, wash my hands, and have a reasonable (but not unusual) amount of stress and busyness in my life. I do yoga to stretch/relax a couple of times a week. All of which makes this a bit frustrating. The only thing I can see that *might* be too much is 5:30-6am starts to get my exercise done before heading to work - I'm often exercising tired, and a feeling of general fatigue can accumulate. If I'm lucky I can maintain a level for a few weeks before increasing distances or time or intensity, but then the same problems arise. I feel like I'm wearing one of those "horizontal bungy" cords, where every time I push forward I'm pulled back, often quite violently. My question is: Do others experience this? How did I resolve this?"

Answer from Rebecca Gurney, M.D.:
Member AMSSM

Based on current knowledge, immune function can be affected by how much and how intense your exercise routine is.

Better immune function can be maintained by eating well, keeping life stresses to a minimum, and obtaining adequate sleep. Immune function can be suppressed during periods of very low caloric intake and quick weight reduction, so weight loss should be gradual to maintain good immunity.

There is a balance when it comes to endurance training. At low to moderate amounts of exercise athlete’s immune systems function better and will help protect you from getting sick. However, endurance athletes have been found to have a higher risk of illness when in peak training and shortly following big races.

The other concern for you is your general level of fatigue with exercise as you may be experiencing overtraining syndrome. Unfortunately the main treatment for this is a significant period of rest and then gradual return to your sports. You would want to see your sport physician to talk more about diagnosing this problem and treatments.

When it comes to exercising while having an illness, here are some general guidelines.

  1. If you have common cold symptoms that are not affecting your breathing, moderate exercises does not appear to be harmful. However, listen to your body. You may need to shorten a workout or decrease the intensity until you are feeling better.
  2. If you are having more chest symptoms that affect your breathing, it is better to rest and back off your training. Once your breathing has normalized, you can gradually work back into your training.
  3. If you try and push too hard when you are sick, it will set your recovery back and it will be longer until you get back to your full training potential. 

-- Rebecca Gurney, M.D.

Rating

Click on star to vote
2394 Total Views  |  40 Views last 30 days  |  12 Views last 7 days
date: December 17, 2015

AMSSM

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

avatarAMSSM

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

View all 424 articles