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Can You Really "Sweat Out" a Cold? Debunking Exercise Myths for the 40+ Generation

Written by Emma Mattison, NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach, and Functional Aging Specialist and Exercise Scientist.

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Man in his 40s blowing his nose while trying to exercise, illustrating the myth of 'sweating out' a cold.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just going to sweat out this cold with a good workout?” Many of us, especially in the 40+ age group, grew up hearing about the benefits of "sweating out" sicknesses. Let's dive into the science behind this commonly held belief.

Where Did This Myth Start?

Ancient illustration of adults in their 40s and older using a sauna, reflecting historical beliefs in 'sweating out' illnesses.

The idea of sweating to rid the body of illness is deeply rooted in history. Traditional healing practices such as saunas and steam rooms were often based on the notion that sweating can cleanse the body (Hannuksela & Ellahham, 2001). Add to this the body's natural fever response during infections, which can inhibit the growth of viruses (Evans et al., 2015), and it's easy to see why many believe in the therapeutic benefits of sweating. But does this mean hitting the gym with a cold will speed up your recovery?

Exercise, Immune Response, and the Common Cold

Exercise undoubtedly has numerous benefits for our health and wellbeing. Regular moderate-intensity exercise can enhance our immune function and reduce the chances of getting sick (Nieman & Wentz, 2019). However, the notion of "sweating out" a cold or other illness through rigorous exercise is largely a myth.

Here’s why:

  1. Endorphin Release: Exercise releases endorphins, natural painkillers that can elevate mood (Boecker et al., 2008). So while you might feel better post-workout, this doesn't mean your cold has vanished.

  2. Increased Circulation: While exercising does improve blood flow, this doesn't necessarily equate to faster recovery from illness (Simpson et al., 2015).

  3. Psychological Satisfaction: Being proactive about one's health might give a temporary psychological boost, but it doesn't necessarily combat the underlying illness (Bandura, 1997).

  4. Distraction: Exercise can momentarily distract us from feeling unwell, but it's just that—a distraction (Bahrke & Morgan, 1978).

  5. Misinterpretation of Recovery: Some might think post-exercise fatigue signals the illness is leaving, but rigorous exercise can further stress the immune system.

The Verdict: Why "Sweating Out" a Cold Isn't the Way

Older woman gently stretching, showcasing appropriate exercises for those feeling under the weather.

Our immune system is hard at work when we have a cold or any viral infection. Intense exercise can divert essential resources, potentially slowing down the healing process (Meeusen et al., 2013).

If you're feeling under the weather, consider lighter activities like walking or stretching, which won't strain the immune system (Selkirk et al., 2019). Remember, sometimes, the best medicine is simply rest, hydration, and proper nutrition.

The next time someone mentions "sweating out" their cold, share this post with them and let’s continue to debunk fitness myths, one at a time.

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If you're ready to take your fitness to the next level, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with me, Emma Mattison. During this consultation, we can discuss your fitness goals, assess your current fitness level, and create a personalized plan to help you improve your fitness and functional health.

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But that's not all! As a special offer, I'm providing a free functional fitness course to jumpstart your journey. This course will introduce you to various exercises and training techniques to enhance your overall functional fitness and complement your aerobic base training.

Invest in yourself today and experience the transformative power of improving your aerobic base. Take the first step by scheduling your free consultation and claiming your free functional fitness course. Let's work together to achieve your fitness goals and unlock your full potential!

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Please note: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice. Consult with your healthcare provider or a certified fitness professional before starting any new exercise program.

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About the Author

Image of Emma Mattison, a highly qualified online personal trainer, functional aging specialist, certified trainer and nutrition coach through NASM and FAI, and a skilled Tai Chi and Dance instructor.

Hi! I'm Emma Mattison. I'm a NASM certified personal trainer, nutrition coach, stretch & flexibility coach, pranayama breathwork guide, holistic nerd, and lover of birds & music! I specialize in functional fitness for older adults, and those with conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Scientific literature is fun to me, and my goal is to make it understandable and fun for you!

I am driven to share knowledge I find fascinating & transformative with my clients, and the world. Everyone has the power to take their health into their own hands!

My love for fitness and true discovery of health started with helping my best friend – who I can now call my husband! Today, I couldn't do any of this as smoothly and enjoyably as I do now without him! Check out our YouTube, MyZeniverse! He literally edits and films everything. He's editing the next YouTube video next to me right now, as we speak! Check it out, and give it a like if it's helpful! 😊😊


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Boecker, H., Sprenger, T., Spilker, M. E., Henriksen, G., Koppenhoefer, M., Wagner, K. J., Valet, M., Berthele, A., & Tolle, T. R. (2008). The runner's high: opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991), 18(11), 2523–2531.

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Laukkanen, T., Khan, H., Zaccardi, F., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2015). Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA internal medicine, 175(4), 542–548.

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Steinacker, J., Urhausen, A., European College of Sport Science, & American College of Sports Medicine (2013). Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 45(1), 186–205.

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NF-kappaB translocation, and cytokine increase during exertional heat stress in trained and untrained individuals. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 295(2), R611–R623.

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