Working Out With a Cold

Photo credit: Cornelius CC-BY-SA-3.0

Winter months bring colds. As much as we all despise the incurable pest and as much as we may try to avoid its grasp, it’s inevitable that at one point or another, we will fall victim to the sneezing, coughing, sore throat and sinus torture brought on by the virus. For any fitness fanatic, this can mean an extra dose of torture. To someone who has become accustomed to regular exercise, the thought of being semi-sedentary for a week or two can be hard to swallow. And guess what. You don’t have to. Mild to moderate exercise can have a positive effect on the immune system, and if you keep your blood flowing, you can help your body keep strong and fight off the virus.

Exercising while sick relies heavily on one thing: listening to your body. As long as nothing below the neck is bothering you (coughing, body aches, nausea) it’s really up to you to determine what intensity is appropriate for you. In addition, keep in mind that if you are on any sort of medication, this may affect your ability to work out as well. Taking a nighttime cold medicine might result in a slight medicine hangover the next day and therefore, even less energy than you might have with a cold all on its own. Also take into consideration that decongestants raise your heart rate, as does exercise. This combination might not make for the most ideal workout, as your breathing could become short and oxygenation to the blood could become difficult. This could have an adverse effect on your recovery time, so make sure to consult with a doctor if you plan on taking these while working out.

If you are up to it, you have a lot of great and safe options for working out while sick. If nothing else, talking a walk outdoors is a great way to gently get your blood pumping and oxygen circulating. Even a 10-minute walk can help boost your immune system during the most debilitating of colds.  If you’re up to a slow jog or even a run, as long as you listen to your body, you are good to go. Keep in mind that you may not be able to run as fast or as long as you are used to, and this is completely okay.

Yoga is another good choice when sick, especially if more intense cardio-based exercise aggravates a cough. Whether it be a class or poses on your own, there are a variety of poses that are gentle and beneficial to an under-the-weather feeling.  Studies have even suggested that vibrations from humming (chanting Om) can help ease sinus pressure and pain. Poses like Uttanasana (standing forward bend), Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) and Supta Buddha Konasana (reclining bound angle pose) are all beneficial for restoration. Balasana (child’s pose) and Upavustha Konasana (wide-angle seated forward bend) are beneficial to congestion and respiratory sensitivity and discomfort.

Higher intensity workouts can also remain an option when you have a head cold, keeping in mind that you may have to slightly scale back while your body is in a more delicate state. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or any sort of pain, it’s important that you ease up and do not push yourself to become even more ill. Also, never feel bad if you need to give your body a rest. Resting helps just as much with recovery as exercise and can help you come back to your workouts feeling refreshed and re-energized.

5 Tips to Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness

Improving your cardiovascular fitness offers many health benefits, such as better circulation, increased metabolic rate, more energy, greater strength and endurance, protection against chronic disease and much more. Therefore, my goal here is to help you enjoy all these benefits and more by providing you with five tips to improve your cardio fitness.

Play A Sport

Sports are an excellent way to boost your cardiovascular fitness for a number of reasons. They’re a lot of fun, they allow you to socialize with your friends and meet new friends and they generally have a regular schedule, which guarantees that you get consistent cardiovascular exercise. Furthermore, the nature of sports means that you’ll have periods where you’re working at an all-out intensity and periods where you’re exercising at an easier, slower pace. This kind of variety will give your cardiovascular fitness an enormous boost.

Participate is a High Intensity Exercise Class

High intensity exercise classes are another very beneficial way to increase your cardiovascular fitness. Your instructor will not only help you to stay on track, but also make sure that you put in your best effort and not give up. Also, when you participate in a high-intensity exercise group, you will see everyone else working hard and encourage you to do the same. Following a weekly class schedule can also help you to work on your cardiovascular fitness on a regular basis.

Do Cardio Whenever You Can

While it’s a good idea to have scheduled cardiovascular activities such as exercise classes or sports in your routine, you should also look for opportunities during the day where you can spontaneously do some extra cardio.

Walking is probably the easiest way to fit extra cardio into your day and by taking the stairs or leaving the car at home, you can easily add lots of additional walking to your routine. However, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can go beyond walking and do sprints, jumping jacks, burpees or more whenever you have some time to spare.

Do High Intensity Cardio Intervals

No matter what form of cardio you choose to do, you should try to add in some high- intensity intervals into your workout routine. Exercising at high intensity will test your current cardiovascular fitness to its limits and build up your lungs and heart in the process, which results in improved cardiovascular fitness every time you work out. In addition, you will burn more calories than fat, which means that you will expend more calories for greater fat loss down the road.

In a nutshell, you’ll end up in better physical condition with less body fat and better overall health. All very good reasons to add high intensity training into your exercise sessions.

Consistency Is Key

The four tips above are all tremendous ways to develop your cardiovascular fitness. However, if you’re not consistent with your cardio training, they’ll yield limited results. Therefore, to get the most out of these tips, make sure you’re doing some scheduled cardio training at least three to four times per week and including spontaneous cardio exercises into your routine every day.

So, if you find yourself having to catch your breath after walking up the stairs or rushing to catch a bus, now is the time to give your cardiovascular fitness a kick. Simply implement the five top tips from this article and you’ll start to see your cardiovascular fitness rapidly increase and enjoy all its health benefits.

Exercise to Reduce the Risk of Varicose Veins

Photo Credit: Voyeurproject CC-BY-SA-3.0

Varicose veins are large blood vessels visible just below the skin surface. Women are particularly susceptible to developing varicose veins, but people who stand long hours at work and people with a blood relative who has varicose veins are also at risk to develop varicose veins. Contrary to popular belief, crossing your legs does not contribute to or cause varicose veins. About 80% of those who develop varicose veins inherited the condition. There is no guaranteed way to prevent varicose veins, but you can reduce your risk with regular exercise. Exercise that strengthens the leg muscles and improves circulation is the best way to reduce your risk of developing varicose veins. 
Walking is the easiest way to exercise to develop strong leg muscles and improve your cardiovascular system, including vein strength. Walk daily for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Instead of taking the elevator or escalator, try walking a few flights of stairs every day. 
Elevating your legs and pumping them as if riding a bicycle will help to strengthen the leg muscles and improve circulation in the legs. Lie down on your back and lift your bottom off the floor a few inches with your palms under your buttocks. Pump your legs forward for 20 repetitions and then reverse for 20 repetitions.  Repeat this exercise daily. 
Leg lifts also help to improve blood flow and strengthen the leg muscles. Lie on your back and place your hands, palms down, on the floor on each side of your body. Lift one leg about 12 inches off the floor and hold your leg elevated for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your leg and then repeat with the other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side.