Illustration of a sick man who's lifting weights

Most of us know that working out, eating a good diet, and getting plenty of good sleep will improve our health. So why, then, whenever we start working out, do we keep getting sick. Isn’t working out supposed to make us healthier? Is getting sick every time we try to bulk up just an unavoidable part of our skinny curse?

Nothing can ruin the momentum of a good bulk like getting a cold, the flu, or—every skinny guy’s worst nightmare—the stomach flu. I can’t tell you many dozens of pounds I’ve lost to the stomach flu over the years. Getting sick while leading a sedentary life is bad enough, but it feels all the worse when we’re in the middle of a bulking routine. We lie there in fear, breathing through our mouths, certain that our muscles are being eaten away, but unable to muster the willpower to shovel down enough food to maintain our body weight.

Our bulks eventually resume, those pounds come back, and regaining muscle is a total breeze compared to gaining it in the first place. But still, better to never get sick in the first place.

Nothing will guarantee that we won’t get sick, but there are a few things we can do to reduce our risk.

Disclaimer: Marco has a health science degree (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa and is a certified personal trainer (PTS) and nutrition coach (PN). Even so, we aren’t doctors, and our intention here isn’t to say anything novel. Our goal is merely to gather and pass on the practical recommendations from qualified medical experts.

Illustration of a sick man's face.

Why Do We Get Sick While Bulking?

There’s a counterintuitive thing going on here. Working out causes stress, which forces us to adapt by growing bigger, stronger, healthier, and better looking—all great things. However, there’s that brief interval after working out where we haven’t recovered from the stress yet, and thus leave ourselves more vulnerable to getting a cold (or whatever). Or at least that’s what conventional wisdom tells us.

This idea of our immune systems being impaired after working out started in the 1980s when studies started coming out showing that running marathons raised the runners’ chance of getting sick. However, recent research by John Campbell, professor of health science at the University of Bath in England, found a problem with those studies: the runners were self-reporting their sniffles. Bath’s follow-up research found that most of the runners weren’t actually getting sick. Rather, running 26 miles had irritated their airways. They had sore throats, yes, but it was from all the huffing and puffing, not because they had gotten sick.

This led to a stream of new research which found that marathon runners actually had superb immune systems, presumably from being in such great shape, and thus got getting fewer colds than average. This advantage likely extends to less extreme training, too, with rodent research showing that even casual exercise leads to a greater chance of surviving violent strains of the flu.

However, researchers also discovered something they called the “open window” theory. The idea was that strenuous workouts could temporarily deplete our immune systems as we recover and adapt from the stress of training. By the time we’ve adapted, our immune systems are stronger, and so there’s no doubt that regular exercise winds up being a net benefit in the longer term. Even so there was quite a lot of controversy about whether beginners who start exercising for the first time are more vulnerable to getting sick in the hours following those first workouts.

SRA curve showing how our immune systems adapt over time.

This gives us something called a stimulus, response, adaptation curve, usually shortened to simply SRA curve. What we see here is that we’re temporarily weaker after our workouts (recovery), but then grow more robust with time (adaptation). If we stop training, of course, then that adaptation disappears (regression). But the whole point of working out is to stack our workouts together to give us cumulative improvements, like so:

An SRA curve showing the cumulative benefits of working out.

This is why marathon runners get fewer colds than the average person—because even if their immunity takes a hit from a hard training session, it’s still much higher than average. This was confirmed with the latest rodent research, showing that fit rodents have stronger immune systems than sedentary ones, even immediately after strenuous workouts.

Unfortunately, if this model applies to our immune system, then it would mean that someone who’s new to working out might briefly go through a period of getting sick more often. However, as we mentioned above, this is still quite controversial, with contemporary research showing that even beginners see enhanced antibacterial and antiviral immunity immediately after training (study).

Now, so far we’ve been talking research looking at people running marathons, which is quite extreme. Is this open window theory applicable to guys who are lifting weights a few times per week? Sort of. It’s more the professional powerlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes who run into problems from their far harder training. This is often because they’re doing multiple rigorous workouts per day, and sometimes with a heavily restricting calorie intake. Moreover, their careers depend on steady training, so even if they get sick less often than average, they may still want to reduce their risk even further.

So what does this mean for us? It means that a good bulking program probably isn’t intense enough to cause any immune problems, and should, in theory, lead to immunity improvements right from the very first workout, especially if we ease into our training somewhat gradually.

In fact, the average person is at greater risk of getting sick not because they’re exercising too much, but because they aren’t exercising enough. If we’re out of shape, we don’t have the robust immune systems of those who’ve been exercising for a solid decade. So as we fight to improve our long-term health, we may as well also implement some habits that will help keep us from getting sick in the short-term. Otherwise, we may get sick at similar rates to other sedentary people—a few colds per year.

Some of these habits that help us avoid getting sick go hand-in-hand with bulking, anyway. Eating tons of good food greatly improves our ability to recover from our workouts, as does making sure to get plenty of good sleep each night. If we’re eating and sleeping big while following a sensible bulking program, we should be able to lower our risk of infection in both the shorter and longer terms.

Should We Lift Weights While Sick?

The short answer is nope, don’t do it. Especially if we train at a public gym, where we’d be risking making everyone else sick. We ought to think of our fellow bulkers. If we can’t be gaining, at least they can. But even if we train at home, it’s still best to wait until we’re fully recovered before we start training again.

Illustration of a sick man working out, lifting weights.

The long answer is, it depends on your symptoms are. Some experts, such as the researchers who conducted this study, recommend using the “above the neck” rule, where it’s okay to exercise if our symptoms are exclusively above the neck: a sore throat, an earache, a stuffy nose, and so on.

If all we have is a mild cold, we may not need to completely avoid exercise. To quote the experts at the Mayo Clinic, “Mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a common cold and no fever. Exercise may even help you feel better by opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion.”

Unless 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).

Dr John Berardi, Precision Nutrition

Furthermore, some symptoms persist even after our immune systems have already vanquished a virus. For example, it’s common for people to produce extra mucus after they’ve fought off a cold. That extra mucus then drips into our throats, giving us a lingering cough. Or maybe the extra mucus makes us breathe through our mouths while we sleep, giving us a sore throat. So some of these “above the neck” symptoms can occur even when we’re no longer sick. In that case, there’s likely no harm in exercising, and we may even be able to get away with jumping back into lifting weights.

To make things even more confusing, as with the marathon runners from earlier, it’s common to confuse the soreness and inflammation from lifting weights with being sick. A couple of days after doing neck curls for the first time, oi, those sore muscles in the front of our necks can really feel like having swollen lymph nodes. It’s also common to confuse allergies for catching a cold. As a result, especially when our symptoms are quite minor, we don’t always want to jump right to thinking that we’re too sick to lift, let alone to do any exercise at all.

On the other side of the spectrum, some symptoms, such as nausea, aches, fever, diarrhea, and phlegmy coughs are more indicative of a battle that’s still raging, and so we don’t want to add more stress into that mix. Better to not even dream about lifting until our symptoms move above the neck.

Now, even once we’re cleared to exercise, that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to jump back into lifting hard and heavy. Going for a walk outside in the sun and getting some blood flowing can be a good way to ease back into exercise when you’re still kind of sick and not quite ready to lift weights yet.

Illustration of a sick man jogging, doing cardio.

Finally, when we do go back to lifting weights, it’s best to start with a “deload” week—a week of easier training—as we’ll discuss below. We’ll be sensitive to the stimulus of lifting weights (and might have some lost muscle to regain), so even those easier workouts will be more than enough to stimulate muscle growth.

Losing Weight While Sick

As a general rule, eating enough food to at least maintain our body weight tends to be good for our health and immune systems. Strenuous strength training and bodybuilding workouts tend to combine well with abundant diets that are rich in whole foods, protein, and calories. If you’re worried about getting sick, it’s not the best time to embark on an ambitious cutting diet. Better to focus on building muscle.

However, our appetites usually do a pretty good job of telling us how many calories we need to maintain our health and immune systems (study). That’s what our appetite is for, after all. It’s not here to help us bulk up, but it is there to help us stay healthy. If you’re trying to build muscle, extra calories are certainly helpful, but even just eating in line with our appetites should be enough to reduce our risk of getting sick.

The same holds true if we get sick. If our appetites disappear when we get a fever, that can be a sign that our bodies don’t need an influx of calories right now (study). Even if our appetites have disappeared, though, it may still help to eat plenty of protein to reduce the amount of muscle mass that we lose as we inevitably lose weight overall.

Finally, I know it’s hard for us hardgainers to gain weight, and that losing weight while sick can be heartbreaking. But the last thing we need while trying to recover is to stress about losing weight. Building muscle is hard, but rebuilding it is quick and easy. There’s no need to stress about losing muscle while sick. Just focus on getting better.

How to Get Sick Less Often

Illustration of a miserably sick man compared to a healthy man.

There’s nothing we can do to eliminate our risk of getting sick, but there are some well-established guidelines that have been shown to help. If we look at the recommendations of Neil P Walsh from the European Journal of Sport Science, we get the following list (study):

  • Try to avoid sick people, especially in the fall and winter.
  • Ensure good hygiene and proper vaccination.
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Don’t lift weights with “below-the-neck” symptoms.
  • Try to keep chronic stress low.
  • Carefully manage training stress.
  • Replace overly long lifting sessions with shorter sessions.
  • Deload more frequently, such as every second or third week.
  • Aim for at least seven hours of good sleep every night.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and avoid losing weight.

Let’s go over some of these points in more detail.

Basic Gym Hygiene

No real secret that gyms have a bunch of germs, sweat, and tears in them, but there’s also research to prove it. That isn’t necessarily a problem, but again, there’s a temporary period right after hard training when our immune systems are slightly suppressed.

The worst thing we could do is avoid going to the gym. We’d be temporarily avoiding germs while missing out on the long-term benefits that come from growing bigger, stronger, fitter, and healthier. But we can also practice the basic hygiene that the CDC recommends:

  • Stop touching your face (and picking your nose).
  • Wash your hands afterwards (for at least 30 seconds).

Not rocket science, and it should significantly reduce your risk of getting an infection.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. If you build yourself a home gym, do you get the luxury of picking your nose? I can see an argument for that, certainly, but it’s still probably best to practice good hygiene.

Don’t Train Too Hard Too Early

Lifting weights hard enough to provoke muscle growth will cause stress. That’s a good thing. That’s how we build ourselves stronger, tougher bodies and immune systems. However, more stress isn’t always better.

For new lifters, remember that as we lift weights, we adapt by growing both stronger and tougher. That means that when we first start lifting weights, we aren’t very tough yet. That’s an adaptation we make over time.

Going back to John Campbell’s immunology research, he says, “If you have not been exercising, now might not be the ideal moment to start an extremely ambitious and tiring new workout routine.”

For beginners, it’s often best to start with fairly low training volumes—just a couple sets per exercise—and then gradually work our way up. That will ward off the crippling soreness, it will be easier on our immune systems, and it will still be enough to provoke muscle growth, so we aren’t losing anything.

For seasoned lifters, have you ever taken a break from lifting weights, gotten a bit detrained, and then gone back to lifting? Your habitual workout routine probably destroyed you, leaving you miserably sore for days at a time. That’s because your body lost some of those beneficial adaptations. Those adaptations will come back, but it’s better if we ease back into it.

For those of us who are detrained and just getting back into lifting weights again, it’s often best to start with just a couple sets per lift. That will be enough to stimulate muscle growth without totally destroying ourselves, and as we recover and adapt, we’ll earn back our ability to train with higher volumes. The next week, we can add another set to each lift. The week after, we can add another. Within a month, we’ll be back to our higher training volumes, and we’ll have made solid gains along the way.

We Don’t Need to Train to Failure

To build muscle, it’s true that we need to challenge ourselves. If we lift too far inside of our means, then there’s no need to adapt: we’re already strong enough. So we need to lift close to failure while trying to build muscle.

However, we don’t need to lift all the way to failure. Stopping 1–3 reps short of failure when doing hypertrophy training produces just as much muscle growth as lifting all the way to failure. This is important because stopping even just a couple of reps shy of failure imposes significantly less stress on our systems, and can reduce the amount of time it takes to recover between workouts by as much as 50%. This is especially important with the big compound lifts.

That isn’t to say that we should never train to failure, but we might want to leave a couple of reps in reserve by default, only going near failure when we have a good reason to. For example, we might want to take our final sets to failure sometimes just to make sure that we aren’t leaving too many reps in reserve. This can be especially important for beginners who are trying to learn what it feels like to stop just shy of failure.

We may also want to go all the way to failure on the final sets of our isolation exercises. The risk of injury is low and smaller lifts are fairly easy to recover from anyway. But that’s a far cry from taking every single set of every single exercise to failure every single workout, and so it should dramatically reduce the amount of stress we need to manage.

Take Breaks Before Fatigue Accumulates

Our muscles recover pretty quickly and easily. They’re designed to adapt based on the demands we face. That’s why building muscle works so incredibly well. This means that so long as our training program is reasonable, our muscles shouldn’t have much trouble recovering between our workouts, especially if we’re resting a day or two between workouts. Great.

Furthermore, lifting weights stresses our cardiovascular systems. So much so that lifting weights for an hour counts as doing thirty minutes of dedicated cardio. Like our muscles, our cardiovascular system can recover and adapt quickly. Also great.

However, when we’re lifting weights, we’re not just stressing our muscles and cardiovascular systems. We’re also stressing our connective tissues and loading up our bones with tons of weight. This is good too, of course, but it also complicates things. Our bones and connective tissues have different recovery curves from our muscles. They can take weeks to heal instead of days. So as we do workout after workout, sometimes the stress on our overall system can accumulate. Eventually, it reaches a breaking point and we get injured, demotivated, or even catch a cold.

One way to get around this is to schedule “deloads” where we intentionally train with a lower volume, with a lower intensity, or we stop our sets further from failure—perhaps all three. This ensures that we aren’t accumulating stress, and that every new phase of our training starts off from a fully recovered baseline.

Diagram of SRA curve showing accumulating stress

There’s some debate about how often to schedule deloads. Serious athletes who are doing several hours of intense training every day may benefit from deloading quite frequently, which is why the European Journal of Sport Science recommends deloading every 2–3 weeks. However, few of us are serious athletes, and most of us are only lifting weights for a few hours every week. We accumulate fatigue less quickly, and so it may be best to deload every 4–7 weeks instead, giving ourselves longer to provoke muscle growth between our breaks. If you’re particularly worried about getting sick, though, or if you’re starting to feel worn down, then there’s no problem in deloading more often.

The good news about deloads is that even if we take a week completely off from working out, most research shows that it wouldn’t even slow down our muscle growth. Let me repeat that: even if we take a week completely off from lifting, we still build muscle at the same overall pace.

Mind you, if we take a week off from training, we’d lose some of the toughness we developed, and we’d need to deal with greater amounts of soreness when we return to our workout programs. We’d also risk falling out of the habit of lifting. For those reasons, it’s usually better to do a proper deload week. But still: no harm in breaks.

Live a Generally Healthy Lifestyle

When we’re sick, there’s not a lot we can do. We can try to eat the proper amount of protein and try to avoid falling into too deep of a calorie deficit. But once we’re already sick, the main thing is just to wait it out, get better, and then go back to working out afterwards. We just have to chill out (literally, sometimes) and be patient.

Illustration of a skinny hardgainer eating a feast in his attempt to bulk up, gain weight. and build muscle.

If we’re repeatedly getting sick, though, we might want to see if there’s something we can do to improve our general health. It’s not that we can necessarily “boost” our immune system, but rather make sure that it has everything it needs to function properly. There are a few things that have been shown to help:

  • Getting more good sleep. At least a couple of studies show that getting enough sleep reduces our risk of getting sick (study, study). Sleep is an important part of maintaining good health and immune function, and when we’re lifting hard, eating big, and making a massive renovation to our physiques, it only becomes that much more important. For more, we’ve got an article on how to get better sleep while bulking over on Outlift.
  • Reducing chronic stress. Being chronically stressed in our day-to-day lives can interfere with our hormones and our ability to recover from hard training. There’s no single solution that works for everyone, but anything that minimizes our chronic stress can help (such as meditation or prayer, joining a community, reading fiction in the evening, etc).
  • Eating more whole foods. Part of having a robust immune system is eating enough fruits, veggies, and whole foods in general. Aim for 5+ servings of fruits and veggies per day, and try to get at least 80% of your calories from minimally processed foods. There are plenty of great bulking foods that are nutritious while still making it easy for a skinny hardgainer to eat enough calories to gain weight.
  • Checking for micronutrient deficiencies. Some nutrients seem to have a bigger role in building a strong immune system than others. Having around a clove of garlic every day, for example, seems to reduce the incidence of illness. So does having enough vitamin C. And it’s important that you aren’t deficient in iron or zinc. For more, Examine has a good article about which supplements can help with colds and the flu.
  • Eating more probiotics. Recent research shows that having probiotics in our diets, such as those found in yogurts, hard cheeses, kefir, Yakult, kimchi, and sauerkraut, can help reduce the incidence of illness while lifting hard.
  • Getting daily sunshine. Getting enough sunshine every day allows us to produce enough vitamin D, which helps regulate immune cells during infections. This could be as simple as taking a walk in the sun every morning or going outside for lunch (even in the winter). If that’s not realistic, there’s a 2017 meta-analysis showing that supplemental vitamin D also reduces the risk of getting respiratory tract infections.

These general lifestyle habits aren’t just good at improving our immune systems, they’re also generally healthy habits that should help us train harder, build more muscle, and feel better.

Key Takeaways

Regular exercise can improve our immune systems and general health over time. However, there’s some controversy about whether a single bout of extremely challenging exercise could make a sedentary more vulnerable to catching a cold or respiratory tract infection. Modern research suggests that even for beginners, and even right after a hard workout, exercise improves our immune systems (study). But this remains a debated topic among the experts.

What’s clear, though, is that as the benefits of exercise accumulate, our immune systems grow quite a bit stronger, leading to a number of general health benefits:

Contemporary evidence from epidemiological studies shows that leading a physically active lifestyle reduces the incidence of communicable (e.g. bacterial and viral infections) and non-communicable diseases (e.g. cancer), implying that immune competency is enhanced by regular exercise bouts.

John P Campbell and James E Turner, Department for Health, University of Bath.

Even so, regular exercise just reduces our risk of getting sick. It doesn’t eliminate the risk entirely. Most people get a few colds per year, and by exercising, maybe we can drop that down to just a couple. If we can drop that even lower by making some improvements to our diets, exercise routines, and lifestyles, even better.

Illustration of a skinny guy building muscle and becoming muscular (before/after).

The first thing we can do to reduce our risk of getting sick is to practice good basic hygiene, especially in the gym:

  • Stop touching our faces (and picking our noses).
  • Wash our hands afterward lifting (for at least 30 seconds).

There are also a few things we can do to make our training less stressful while still provoking an optimal amount of muscle growth:

  • Gradually work your way up to longer, harder workouts.
  • Leave a couple of reps in reserve on most sets most of the time.
  • Take an easy deload week every few weeks to reset our recovery back to baseline.

Finally, we can try to improve our overall lifestyle:

  • Getting more good sleep.
  • Reducing chronic stress.
  • Eating more whole foods, including eating enough garlic, vitamin C, iron, and zinc (and supplementing as needed).
  • Including some probiotics in our diet, such as yogurt, hard cheese, and sauerkraut.

The good news is that regular exercise, eating a good bulking diet, and getting plenty of sleep all have positive effects on both our general health and immune systems. We’re already on the right track.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping nearly ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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5 Comments

  1. Adil on April 29, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Thank you, Marco and Shane, for sharing this info. It’s quite relevant to the pandemic nowadays too.
    I once experienced that “short term cold-like illness” after a sudden strenuous sports activity in our college ground (that was about 8 years back in spring). I had run a mile, finished it with a sprint. Done a continuous set of 50 bodyweight pushups, a set of 10 chin-ups, a set of 60 crunches, and after coming back to the hostel, without resting, played some lawn tennis with a friend…
    That same evening I had gotten a cold (that’s what I thought it was, the telltale sign was that bitter-tasting post-nasal drip and a painful cold inspiration on sniffing via nostrils). It was disheartening because whenever I had gotten it, it had never ended without taking its toll first and had remained for 5 or more days before finally ending with a productive cough or a headache. At night, I had gone to bed with those fears in mind.

    In the morning, I was surprised to find that the symptoms had gotten better!. Then those distinct painful cold symptoms that had hitherto always guaranteed a severe prodrome quickly went away within that same day! That was the first time this had happened. I didn’t know what had happened and how it had happened, it was new. I thought it was my immunity or some pollen allergy. Now after reading your article, I learned that my former guess might have been right: a combination of decreased immunity due to fatigue + respiratory tract lining irritation due to cold air.

    During an actual common cold though I do not skip the gym during the initial symptomatic days (when it’s just mild irritation/pain in the throat with or without post-nasal drip + easy fatiguability and stuffy/blocked nostril(s)). Actually, I agree that one’s choice to skip gym here or not depends on one’s low or high motivation respectively, because the symptoms are too mild and lie ‘above the neck’ to affect one’s workout performance that day.

    If one gets a cold within long term regular gym routine, then, out of habit, it’s easy to brush it aside, and sometimes because of the good immunologic shape you have been hanging around with, the symptoms don’t get too severe. During these days I just LIGHTEN my workouts (fewer sets, callisthenics only, isolation exercises only, warmups only with some running etc) and SHORTEN my workouts (an hour or even half an hour). Furthermore, I try to go to the gym DAILY now because the workouts are too light. This out of the b2B box strategy has helped me a lot (even when I am not ill). It helps the blood running and maintain regularity and keeps my posture up and about.

    But if the symptoms do progress towards more fatigue, somnolence (sleepiness), rhinorrhoea (runny nose) and sneezing, myalgias (muscle aches) and arthralgia (joint aches), by then, it’s obvious that the body doesn’t want you to do gym, it wants you to lie down, have chicken corn soup (with extra black pepper and honey), take tea, relax, and then finally sleep. I respect and trust my body here and let it recover while its busy making lifelong memory antibodies against the yearly viral newcomer.

    I couldn’t agree with this key sentence of yours more: “There’s no need to stress about losing muscle while sick. Just focus on getting better”. Nicely put.
    And one also becomes contagious when one’s sneezy and has his nose runny (the cold virus is being shed during this phase) so that’s another reason to stay home and stay and keep yourself and others in the gym safe.

    About COVID 19, I’d like to share that this virus (like other droplet spread germs) has access to our blood via these 5 openings ONLY:
    EYES (x2) (the moist white conjunctivae have capillaries that readily absorb stuff thrown at them)
    NOSTRILS (x2) (the moist nasal mucosa has capillaries)
    LIPS/MOUTH (x1) (the oral mucosa is so red and pink because of extensive blood supply)
    (picture a face in your imagination)

    The coronavirus is neither like ebola nor like the hookworm, so it cannot go through intact skin and/or wounds but the other most important areas of our body to look out for (for a related but different reason) are:

    The FINGERTIPS of our HANDS (including the wrists and distal forearms)

    …because these parts of our body are the first ones we use to TOUCH, making them the most capable of picking the virus up from anywhere (doorknobs, currency bills/coins, checking counters/shelves, dumbbells, towels, washbasin knobs, sanitizer buttons, other people etc) and take it directly/indirectly right into the 5 openings of the face when we:

    Rub your eyes. Pick/scratch your nostrils. Touch/put fingers into your mouth or rub its corners.

    Being religiously obligated, we in our country compulsively wash our faces, nostrils, hands and arms (as part of our daily ablution before prayers) at least 3 – 5 times a day. We’re quite fortunate to have this as our default habit here. But further using soap with water and thoroughly rinsing the hands and wrists in that lather (after turning off the tap to save water) for 20 seconds minimum (recommended: 30 seconds) before washing it off is shown to completely kill the virus more effectively, conveniently, safely and cheaply than any hand sanitizer solution. Hand sanitizers are alternatives (not necessarily superior) to soap and water for these reasons. Corona might spread via fecal-oral route as well, therefore its best to use soap and water after getting out of the toilet and especially before having food.

    Other important habits in a droplet spread pandemic:

    STAYING PUT
    wherever you are, as much as you can. Its creepy but ASYMPTOMATIC SPREAD of the coronavirus may also be possible (studies suggest that).

    AVOIDING CROWDS especially in a small closed INDOOR place:
    aerosols are very fine (like mist or steam) that are produced by any mouth that opens (like while talking). Coughing and sneezing produce them in larger volumes in addition to the larger spit droplets that seldom fly beyond 6 feet. Aerosols, carry the virus far and wide (several meters more than 6 feet). They linger like a cloud. Someone sick with Corona doesn’t necessarily have to cough or sneeze right onto your face to send you a package of their aerosols. It’s the very air! The purpose of the N95 masks etc (they must fit well to work properly) is to protect against these very aerosols because surgical masks canNOT.
    While indoors, try to be near a well-ventilated area. Outdoors, you better be in a park and away from a crowd (that isn’t observing social distancing).

    WEARING a surgical MASK at least (when outside home, even when you’re asymptomatic):
    This keeps others safe, reminds them to wear one too and doesn’t scare them when you do sometimes sneeze or cough for other reasons. Sticking an insulation tape over it around your nose will keep it from fogging any glasses that you wear. The T-shirt and rubber band combo is being advised as an effective alternative by CDC.

    GIVING LOVE A CHANCE – become more charitable for once
    especially if you’re saving money more than ever on travel, fast food etc. Realize that not everyone in your locality might be enjoying days off from work as much as you might be. Especially people dependent on daily wages and the poor. Search such people, give them the love and kindness you’ve been keeping all this time for the deserving people. Wash hands with soap and water/ sanitizer after distributing rations. Online donations to trusted organizations/ volunteering friends is another good method.

    NOT PANICKING if you get sick (even if you’re old)
    identify your symptoms first and distinguish them from those of common cold or a seasonal allergy which are quite common and occur alongside a pandemic. According to a study done in Wuhan, China, during the initial epidemic, people with Corona had the following symptoms in decreasing order of frequency (source):

    ●Fever in 99 %
    ●Fatigue in 70 %
    ●Dry painful cough in 59 %
    ●Anorexia (loss of appetite) in 40 %
    ●Myalgias (muscle aches) in 35 %
    ●Dyspnea (shortness of breath) in 31 %
    ●Sputum production in 27 %

    Note that sneezing and runny nose are NOT its defining features but FEVER and DRY COUGH are.

    If you have a high fever (101 F ) along with any other symptoms, avoid public places and transport vehicles especially if you’re actively shedding the virus (via coughing). Use disposable tissues instead of handkerchiefs and dispose of them separately (burn them). Keep inside your room. Inform about your symptoms to your nearest doctor. Use personal mobile phones to communicate. Don’t keep it a secret. Use paracetamol regularly to relieve painful and febrile symptoms and keep yourself active. Take adequate fluids and soup. After a medical checkup, you might be prescribed more medicine.
    Simply put: treat it as another influenza episode but seek and inform the healthcare team, meanwhile religiously observing super extra precautions to keep it from spreading to others (the best of which are staying put as much as possible, avoiding people, wearing a mask and washing hands).

    Moreover, especially for dear Jared, Marco and Shane.
    Stay safe.
    Don’t die.
    The world needs you.

    PS: Is that a typo? “Furthermore, lifting weights stresses our cardiovascular system. So much so that lifting weights for an *hour* counts as doing *thirty minutes* of dedicated *cardio*.”

    • Shane Duquette on April 30, 2020 at 9:22 am

      Wow, thank you for taking the time to write such an in-depth comment, Adil!

      To be totally clear, this was an article we wrote long before the pandemic, and when we published it, we intentionally left out any mention of the coronavirus. This coronavirus strain is still quite new, we aren’t medical experts, and we don’t feel comfortable giving commentary or recommendations about it. For that, we recommend following government regulations and listening to the advice of the World Health Organization, the CDC, Johns Hopkins, and other health institutions that specialize in infectious diseases. There seems to be quite a lot of overlap in the recommendations—such as practicing good hygiene—but this article is strictly about reducing the incidence of more minor illnesses such as the flu and common cold. And even then, of course, we recommend listening to medical experts.

      No, that’s not a typo. One study found that a typical bodybuilding workout raises our heart rates into the cardio range for about half of the workout. So if you work out for an hour, you can count it as doing thirty minutes of cardio 🙂

  2. Adil on April 30, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    Just wanted to help being a doctor myself dealing with this situation close up and firsthand at the hospital here… but you’re right.
    It was a bit subjective at places and it’s always best to follow purely the expert-based, refined & standardized international/government regulations for preventive measures in such situations. Otherwise, there’s too much heterogeneity and speculation around on the internet and social media anyway.

    Ohhh, so cardio is still more efficient at stimulating the heart and lungs than an equivalent duration of a weightlifting workout. Thanks for clarifying. I had it mixed up.

    There is something else I wanted to discuss. I sometimes can’t help but think that you overemphasize overeating (eating “tons of food”). When I’m sick, it’s even more difficult to eat high or low satiety solids (being an ectomorph). I easily get diarrhoea in response to overeating. Don’t you think that during illness we should cut back on eating (switching to fluids instead) and hope to eat and regain muscle after we’ve recovered?
    Being an intuitive type, I tend to think that if the body wants to be left alone for some time, it should be given its freedom. It should be allowed to choose what it wants to take as a meal and when. Even if it wants nothing for the whole day. Because whenever I’ve tried to force-feed it against its wish (sick or not), it has rebelled into the toilet. In contrast, whenever I’ve been regular at the gym and eating according to its calling, I’ve gradually but more successfully bulked up. Whenever I’ve tried to eat more than my stomach’s calling (be it that for the quantity or a specific quality of food), I’ve plateaued or even lost weight.
    Are there studies in favour of or against fasting while being mildly sick (as during a cold or worse flu) and also keeping one’s hopes up to bulk up once better, later on?

  3. Barry S on May 18, 2020 at 3:32 am

    The “Open Window” Hypothesis has been pretty much debunked by the latest research.
    I think you’ll find this research paper very interesting.

    • Shane Duquette on May 18, 2020 at 9:45 am

      Hey Barry, thank you!

      I don’t think anything we’ve said really contradicts anything in that paper. We talk about the problems of assuming that a bout of exercise suppresses the immune system, and we point out the controversy of the theory and how it has evolved over time. We also have the same overall conclusion as your linked study: that there’s an overwhelming amount of research showing that regular exercise improves our immune systems.

      But I re-read that section and maybe taking a sequential approach to it isn’t the right way to explain it. In reading the lead-up, it sounds like I’m agreeing with the theory instead of just laying out a timeline of how the research has evolved. In the summary at the end, I also said “whether or not training can increase our short-term risk of getting sick…” I could probably be a bit clearer there, too. You’re right. Thank you. I’ve updated the article based on your feedback. 🙂

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