How Successful People Stay Calm

How Successful People Stay Calm

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

If you follow our newsletter, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.

Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.

“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.

Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

They Appreciate What They Have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.

They Avoid Asking “What If?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.

They Stay Positive

Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.

They Disconnect

Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.

Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.

They Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things, your inner voice says, “It’s time to stop and write them down.” Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

They Reframe Their Perspective

Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things—not everything—and the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.

They Breathe

The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.

This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.

They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon. 

About the Author:
Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence testsemotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

10 REASONS MARTIAL ARTS BENEFITS KIDS

  • In a culture that seems to glorify violence in everything from music to video games and television shows, the idea of enrolling your child in martial arts training classes doesn’t always seem like a good one. While martial arts-centered action films seem to be filled to the brim with violent behavior and gory injuries, you may be surprised to learn that martial arts’ training is actually very beneficial to kids. Like so many other things that Hollywood doesn’t always get right, martial arts isn’t quite the brutal, vicious pastime that it seems. In fact, these are 10 of the reasons why you may want to consider martial arts training for your kids.

    martialarts
    1. Fostering Self-Discipline – One of the central tenets of all forms of the martial arts is an absolute focus on self-discipline. Today’s kids are so accustomed to receiving instant gratification that lessons in self-restraint and discipline aren’t always easy to come by. Kids with a martial arts background, however, are continually reminded of how essential self-discipline is.
    2. Boosting Socialization Skills – Kids who don’t always thrive in highly social environments may find it easier to get to know people and make new friends when they’re in a room filled with peers who share a common interest. The kids on the playground may not always have much common ground, but devotees to the martial arts are able to get to know one another through shared pursuits. Partner-driven forms like jiu jitsu can also foster camaraderie, as they force kids to pair off and build their skills together.
    3. Encouraging Physical Activity – Limiting screen time is a great idea when it comes to getting kids off the couch and encouraging them to be more active, but it only goes so far. Enrolling an inactive child in such a physically demanding pastime not only discourages the sedentary lifestyle she’s used to, but also gives her an enjoyable activity that inspires her to keep moving.
    4. Learning to Set and Achieve Goals – Most forms of martial arts are based around an accomplishment system of colored belts that signify the wearer’s degree of skill. When your child strives toward each new belt, he’s learning valuable lessons about setting and reaching his goals.
    5. Increased Self-Esteem – Confidence comes with achievement, so your child’s self-esteem level will get a boost with every new move he masters and every belt he earns. Kids who struggle with a low sense of self-worth usually become more confident as time progresses while they’re enrolled in a martial arts class.
    6. Instilling a Sense of Respect – Learning any martial arts style will require your child to show her instructor unflinching respect. Today’s kid culture doesn’t always include respect for authority, adults or those in advanced positions. When she goes to her karate or tae kwon do class, though, your child will be learning lessons in respect along with new moves.
    7. Encouraging Non-Violent Conflict Resolution – Thinking that martial arts instruction promotes violent behavior is justified if your only experience with the activity comes from television or movies. In fact, many defensive styles teach kids peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution skills and emphasize the importance of avoiding a physical altercation.
    8. Improving Listening Skills – In order to master the skills she’s being taught and advance through the belt ranks, your child will have to exercise superior listening skills. Kids who aren’t always adept when it comes to paying attention to what they’re told can benefit from the verbal instruction and one-on-one work in her dojo.
    9. Developing Teamwork Skills – Whether he’s breaking boards to get a new belt or sparring in a practice setting to master a new maneuver, there are few things that your child does in his martial arts classes that will be done on his own. Working together to learn new things and accomplish goals is an important life lesson for kids to learn, and instruction in the martial arts can help your child learn that lesson.
    10. Improvement in Other Areas of Life – The benefits of martial arts training don’t end in the dojo. The boost in confidence, increased fitness level and new cooperation skills will also help your child navigate the academic and social aspects of school, affect his behavior at home and have an all-around good influence on him as he develops into an adult.

    If you’re still concerned about encouraging violent tendencies or teaching your child to fight, it may be helpful to visit a few dojos/gyms in your area. Speak with the instructors, administrators and other parents to get an idea of how things operate, and hold off on forming a negative opinion of the martial arts until you’ve done a bit of exploratory research. You may even find that training is the perfect activity for your entire family to do together!

    Author: Kenney Myers - www.kenneymyers.com

Exercise when you’re sick? Should you sweat it out? Or rest and recover?

Exercise when you’re sick?

Should you sweat it out? Or rest and recover?

Everybody gets sick. But it’s tough to know what to do about it. Should you “sweat it out” in the gym? Or get some rest instead? In this article we clear up the confusion. So that next time you come down with the flu or a cold, you’ll know what to do.

Your friendly neighborhood gym. You’re warmed up and ready for a great workout.  Then, all the sudden, Mr. Sneezy walks by. Coughing, sniffling, and heavy mouth-breathing. He’s spraying all over the benches and mats.

“Dude, shouldn’t you just stay home and rest?” you’re thinking.  (And, while you’re at it, stop sharing those nasty germs?)

But maybe Mr. Sneezy’s onto something. Maybe he’ll be able to sweat the sickness out of his system, boosting his immune system along the way.

What’s the right approach? Let’s explore.

The immune system: A quick and dirty intro

Every single day, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites come at us. Folks, it’s a germ jungle out there!

The most common invaders are upper respiratory tract invaders, or URTI’s. Yep, I’m talking about

  • colds,
  • coughs,
  • influenza,
  • sinusitis,
  • tonsillitis,
  • throat infections, and
  • middle ear infections.

Luckily, our immune system has got a plan. When faced with foreign attack, it works hard to defend us. Without the immune system, we’d never have a healthy day in our lives.

Our immune cells originate in our bone marrow and thymus. They interact with invaders through the lymph nodes, the spleen, and mucus membranes.

This means they first make contact in your mouth, gut, lungs, and urinary tract.

immune system 1024x571 Exercise when youre sick? Should you sweat it out? Or rest and recover?

The innate and adaptive immune response

Our innate (natural) immune system is our non-specific first line of defense.

It includes:

  • physical/structural barriers (like the mucous lining in nasal passages),
  • chemical barriers (like our stomach acids), and
  • protective cells (like our natural killer ‘NK’ cells, white blood cells that can destroy harmful invaders).

This immune system develops when we’re young.

Interestingly, women tend to have a stronger overall innate immune response. (Maybe this is why they often do better than men when it comes to colds. But they suffer more often from autoimmune diseases.)

Then there’s the adaptive (acquired) immune system.

This is a more sophisticated system composed of highly specialized cells and processes. It kicks in when the innate immune system is overcome.

The adaptive immune system helps us fight infections by preventing pathogens from colonizing and by destroying microorganisms like viruses and bacteria.

Cue the T and B cells. These specialized white blood cells mature in the thymus and bone marrow, respectively. And believe it or not, they actually have a kind of memory.

It’s this memory that makes them so effective. Once they “recognize” a specific pathogen, they mobilize more effectively to fight it.

This is what we mean when we talk about “building immunity.”

Ever wondered why kids get sick with viruses more often than adults? It’s because they haven’t had as much exposure so their adaptive immune systems are less mature.

What’s more, the acquired immune response is the basis for vaccination. Subject your body to a tiny dose of a pathogen, and it will know what to do when confronted with a bigger dose.

Genius!

Should you exercise while sick?

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: there’s a difference between “working out” and “physically moving the body.”

A structured workout routine — one where you’re breathing heavily, sweating, working hard, and feeling some discomfort — awakens a stress response in the body.

When we’re healthy, our bodies can easily adapt to that stress. Over time, this progressive adaptation is precisely what makes us fitter and stronger.

But when we’re sick, the stress of a tough workout can be more than our immune systems can handle.

Still, there’s no reason to dive for the couch the minute you feel the sniffles coming on. Unless you’re severely out of shape, non-strenuous movement shouldn’t hurt you — and it might even help.

What do I mean by “non-strenuous movement”?  Well, it might include:  walking (preferably outdoors), low intensity bike riding (again, outdoors), gardening, practicing T’ai Chi.

In fact, all of these activities have been shown to boost immunity. 

They aren’t intense enough to create serious immune-compromising stress on the body. Instead, they often help you feel better and recover faster while feeling under the weather.

That’s why Dr. Berardi often recommends low intensity non-panting “cardio” when suffering from colds. Done with minimal heart rate elevation, preferably outside, these activities seem to offer benefits.

What about “working out”?

Non-strenuous movement and purposefully working out are different.

Plus, as you probably know, not all workouts are created equal. There are low intensity workouts and high intensity workouts — and all sorts of workouts in between.

But what’s low to one person might be high to another. So how can you decide what level of intensity counts as strenuous?

Let your own perceived level of exertion be your guide.

In general, a low to moderate intensity workout will leave you feeling energized. A high intensity workout, on the other hand, delivers an ass-kicking.

If you’re sick, it makes sense to avoid the ass-kicking.

Let’s take a look at why.

How exercise affects the immune system

Exercise may play a role in both our innate and our adaptive immune response.

Here’s how:

  • After one prolonged vigorous exercise session we’re more susceptible to infection. For example, running a marathon may temporarily depress the adaptive immune system for up to 72 hours. This is why so many endurance athletes get sick right after races.
  • However, one brief vigorous exercise session doesn’t cause the same immune-suppressing effect. Further, just one moderate intensity exercise session can actually boost immunity in healthy folks.
  • Interestingly, chronic resistance training seems to stimulate innate (but not adaptive) immunity. While chronic moderate exercise seems to strengthen the adaptive immune system.

In the end, here’s the pattern:

  • Consistent, moderate exercise and resistance training can strengthen the immune system over time. So, by all means, train hard while you’re healthy.
  • But single high intensity or long duration exercise sessions can interfere with immune function. So take it easy when you’re feeling sick.

Exercise, stress, and immune function

A group of scientists gathering data on exercise habits and influenza found:

  • People who never exercised got sick pretty often.
  • People who exercised between once a month and three times a week did the best.
  • People who exercised more than four times a week got sick most often.

Enter the J-shaped curve theory.

In simple terms, being sedentary or exercising too much can lower immunity, while something in the middle can improve immunity.

J curve diagram 01 1024x733 Exercise when youre sick? Should you sweat it out? Or rest and recover?

The role of stress

Exercise isn’t the only factor that affects the immune system. Stress plays a big role too.

Let’s take a look at the different stressors a  person might face on any given day.

  • Physical stress: exercise, sports, physical labor, infection, etc.
  • Psychological stress: relationships, career, financial, etc.
  • Environmental stress: hot, cold, dark, light, pollution, altitude, etc.
  • Lifestyle stress: drugs, diet, hygiene, etc.

Stress triggers an entire cascade of hormonal shifts that can result in chronic immune changes.

  • Acute stress (minutes to hours) can be beneficial to immune health.
  • Chronic stress (days to years) can be a big problem.

So, if you’re angry, worried, or scared each day for weeks, months, or even years at a time, your immunity is being compromised. And you’re more likely to get sick.

Sickness and stress

It’s pretty obvious that if you’re actually sick and fighting an infection, your immune system will already be stressed.

And if you add the stress of prolonged vigorous exercise, you might, quite simply, overload yourself. That will make you sicker.

Plus, your history of infections can influence how the immune system responds during exercise. This can include everything from the common herpes simplex virus, varicella zoster, and cytomegalovirus, to hepatitis and HIV.

A healthy body might adapt to all that. But a body that’s fighting an infection is not a healthy body.

Overtraining and infection

What’s more, sudden increases in exercise volume and/or intensity may also create new stress, potentially allowing a new virus or bacteria to take hold, again kicking off a sickness.

Consider the 1987 Los Angeles Marathon, where one out of seven marathon runners who ran became sick within a week following the race. And those training more than 60 miles per week before the race doubled their odds for sickness compared to those training less than 20 miles per week.

This seems to work the opposite way as well. Chronic infections may actually be a sign of overtraining.

Learning from cancer & HIV

Exercise therapy is often recommended for patients with cancer in part because of how it modulates the immune system. Exercise seems to increase NK cell activity and lymphocyte proliferation. In other words, it looks like exercise can be helpful.

Exercise interventions in those with HIV seem to help prevent muscle wasting, enhance cardiovascular health, and improve mood. We’re not sure how this works, though it may help to increase CD4+ cells.

Other factors affecting immunity

Besides stress, there are a host of other factors that can affect our immunity, and these can interact with exercise, either offering greater protection or making us more likely to get sick.

We’ve already touched on some of these. Here are a few more.

Age

Our innate immune response can break down as we get older. But here’s the good news: staying physically active and eating a nutritious diet can offset many of these changes.

Gender

Menstrual phase and oral contraceptive use may influence how the immune system responds to exercise. Estrogens generally enhance immunity while androgens can suppress it. (Again, this may explain why women tend to do better with colds than men.)

Sleep

Poor quality sleep and/or prolonged sleep deprivation jeopardizes immune function.

Climate

Exercising in a hot or cold environment doesn’t appear to be that much more stressful than exercising in a climate controlled environment.

For example, exercising in a slightly cool environment might boost the immune system. But full-fledged hypothermia may suppress immune function. While using a sauna or hot bath may stimulate better immunity in those with compromised immune function.

Altitude

Exposure to higher altitudes has a limited influence on immunity.

Obesity

It’s unclear exactly how obese folks respond to exercise in terms of immunity. Changes in insulin sensitivity and inflammation at rest may blunt or exaggerate their immune response to exercise.

Mood

There’s evidence that immune alterations affect mood and inflammation. Clinical depression is two to threefold higher among patients with diseases that have elevated inflammatory activity.

(Note: moderate exercise appears to act as an anti-inflammatory in those with inflammatory conditions).

IL-6

There is a theory that IL-6 (a compound released after prolonged intensive exercise) may be produced in abnormal ways in some people, leading to fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and depressed mood.

Training age

The more “trained” you are, the better your body tends to handle exercise. In other words, it’s not as much of a stressor.

Just in case you glossed over the previous sentence I’ll reiterate it: a higher level of fitness is protective as it may limit the stress response to exercise.

Textbook guidelines for exercising while sick

  • Day 1 of illness:
    Only low intensity exercise with symptoms like sore throat, coughing, runny nose, congested nose.
    No exercise at all when experiencing muscle/joint pain, headache, fever, malaise, diarrhea, vomiting.
  • Day 2 of illness:
    If body temp >37.5-38 C, or increased coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, do not exercise.
    If no fever or malaise and no worsening of “above the neck” symptoms: light exercise (pulse <120 bpm) for 30-45 minutes, by yourself, indoors if winter.
  • Day 3 of illness:
    If fever and symptoms still present: consult doctor.
    If no fever/malaise, and no worsening of initial symptoms: moderate exercise (pulse <150 bpm) for 45-60 min, by yourself, indoors.
  • Day 4 of illness:
    If no symptom relief, no exercise. Go to doctor.
    If fever and other symptoms improved, wait 24 hours, then return to exercise.
    If new symptoms appear, go to doctor.

Note: Some illnesses can indicate serious infections. So if you aren’t feeling better and recovering, see your doctor.

Also note: Ease back into exercise in proportion to the length of your sickness. If you were sick for 3 days. Take 3 days to ease back in.

walking when sick Exercise when youre sick? Should you sweat it out? Or rest and recover?

To exercise or not? What the pros recommend

Now you know something about the immune system and how exercise interacts with it. But you still might be wondering whether you should exercise when you’re sick. I asked some of the best in the business for their insights.

The consensus: Let your symptoms be your guide and use common sense.  And remember the distinction between exercise and working out.

 

INSIGHT
1
Nick TumminelloI follow the general guideline that if it’s above the neck, it’s okay to train, and do so at an intense level. Just wash your hands before you touch all of the equipment to minimize giving your head cold to others at the facility. Anything below the neck, don’t come into the gym, and take it easy until you’re on the back end of it. 
INSIGHT
2
Alwyn CosgroveBasically we don’t like people to train when they are ill. I can’t see any upside to doing so. 
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3
Dr. Bryan WalshLet your symptoms be your guide. If you’re up for a walk or some light cardio, go for it. If you want to do some lighter weight, higher rep stuff just to keep things moving, that’s probably okay, too. But if you want to sit around watching re-runs of Married With Children, laughter is great medicine as well. 
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4
Dean SomersetTypically I ask clients to stay out of the gym if they have a cold. For one, their own workouts may not be very productive especially if they have respiratory congestion or irritation, and second because I don’t want to catch it! The gym typically isn’t the cleanest place in the world, so a cold bug could be easily spread around through the population by handling equipment or through respiratory droplets in the air. 
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Dr. Spencer NadolskyWith a viral URTI, I have no problem with my patients doing some light exercise. Anecdotally, sometimes it makes them feel better. There’s data to show those who exercise actually get less URTIs. If it’s a little more severe such as influenza (or something similar), I generally keep them focused on hydration and tell them to skip the workout. If they have any history of asthma, I am careful to make sure they have their rescue inhaler if they do feel up to exercising. 
INSIGHT
6
Dr. Christopher MohrIn terms of exercise, I let them “decide” what’s best for them depending on how they feel. If you can’t stop coughing or your head feels like it’s about to explode, I’d suggest taking some down time and getting plenty of sleep, including naps if possible. For me, I’ve found a short walk is still significantly better than nothing — and trying to get outside to do that vs. being stuck on a treadmill walking in circles. Trying to move iron in the gym is a bit much. 
INSIGHT
7
Eric CresseyI generally ask them just how bad it is on a scale of  0 to 10. Zero would be feeling absolutely fine, whereas a 10 would be the worst they’ve ever felt (e.g., violently ill and on their death bed). If it’s anything under a 3 (say, seasonal allergies), I’m fine with them training — albeit at a lower volume and intensity. We might even just do some mobility work or something to that effect.I think the important separating factor is that we’re looking for the difference between just not feeling 100% (allergies, stress, headache) and actually being sick and contagious, which we absolutely don’t want in the gym — for the sake of that individual and those who are training around him/her.

Of course, this is pretty subjective — but what I think it does help us to do is avoid skipping days that would have been productive training days. Everyone has had those sessions when they showed up feeling terrible, but after the warm-up, they felt awesome and went on to have great training sessions. We don’t want to sit home and miss out on those opportunities, but we also don’t want to get sicker or make anyone else sicker — so it’s a definite balancing act.

 

INSIGHT
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Dr. John BerardiUnless you’re feeling like a train wreck I always recommend low intensity, low heart rate “cardio” during the first few days of sickness. Generally I prefer 20-30 minute walks done either outside (in the sunshine) or on a home treadmill (if you can’t get outside).If you keep the intensity low and the heart rate down you’ll end up feeling better during the activity. And you’ll likely stimulate your immune system and speed up your recovery too. But even if you don’t speed up your recovery, you’ll feel better for having moved.

 

 

Exercise activity cheat sheet

Activities to consider when you’re sick.

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Qi gong
  • T’ai Chi
  • Yoga

All of these would be done at a low intensity, keeping your heart rate low. They’d also preferably be done outdoors in mild temperatures. Inside is fine, though, if you can’t get outside.

Activities to avoid when you’re sick.

  • Heavy strength training
  • Endurance training
  • High intensity interval training
  • Sprinting or power activities
  • Team sports
  • Exercise in extreme temperatures

And, for the sake of the rest of us, stay out of the gym. At the gym, you’re much more likely to spread your germs to others. Viruses spread by contact and breathing the air near sick people.

So, if you feel up to physical activity, again: do it outside or at your home gym.

We all thank you.

What you should do

If you feel healthy and simply want to prevent getting sick:

  • Stay moderately active most days of the week.
  • If you participate in high-intensity workouts, make sure you’re getting enough rest and recovery time.
  • Manage extreme variations in stress levels, get plenty of sleep, and wash your hands.

If you are already feeling sick, let symptoms be your guide.

  • Consider all the stress you’re managing in your life (e.g., psychological, environmental, and so forth).
  • With a cold/sore throat (no fever or body aches/pains), easy exercise is likely fine as tolerated. You probably don’t want to do anything vigorous, no matter how long in duration.
  • If you have a systemic illness with fever, elevated heart rate, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain/weakness, and enlarged lymph nodes, get some rest! If you have a serious virus and you exercise, it can cause problems.
By Ryan Andrews