Sunday, February 14, 2010

Does cycling prolong a cold?

I am blessed with generally excellent health. However, every winter it seems like I catch a head cold, that invariably migrates down my throat and becomes bronchitis for a week or 10 days. Maybe it's a good thing in the sense that it makes me better appreciate being totally healthy, 50 or 51 weeks each year.

What I'm wondering is... does cycling (or exercise in general) make it last longer than it otherwise would?

Some brief research on the web hardly reveals a consensus. Some folks declare that you're compromising recovery when your body is simultaneously "recovering" from a cardiovascular workout. Others declare that it makes no appreciable difference one way or another, as long as the workout is within reason. Also, they make the point that if it boosts morale, it can't hurt.

I remain undecided. I keep riding, but cut back a bit on the intensity and duration. (I like to rationalize that breathing that cold outside air makes the dwelling-place less hospitable for those nasty ol' cooties.)

(Yeah, I'm currently about a week into a nasty cold.)


db said...

Had just that debate (internally) this morning. Rode in the rain with a little head cold. I slowed down just a bit, but not much, as I didn't want to stay out in cold, wet conditions any more than I had to.

For me, cycling seems to do more good than harm when it comes to colds. On a bike, I can suddenly breathe through my nose...

Scott said...

I think it could go either way. Without going into great detail, I've always found moderately-rigorous physical activity to be a somewhat cleansing activity, both in the lungs and the sinuses. In that sense, I'd guess that cycling helps to flush out the germs before they can get in and estblish themselves. Also, I read something last year that talked about how elevated body temperature causes the white blood cells to be "stickier", which helped explain how a fever helps fight infection. The theory was that this explained why frequent exercisers don't tend to get sick as often or as severely as sedentary folks. (I think the article came from Men's Fitness or Maxim or one of those renowned journals of medicine, so take it with a grain of salt.)

On the other hand, I think rapid, deep breathing (Or gasping) may help spread infections from the sinuses throughout the lungs. So it could go either way. I know that I seldom get sick, but when I do, it's a whopper.