With Dr. Joshua Rankin
Most bike racers are already back at it logging the miles with an eye on next season. I have already been sick twice and it’s not even full on sick season yet. While I’m not training for a Grand Tour or Spring Classic it still stinks when sickness takes you down for a week. So I checked in with Dr. Rankin to see if he had any tips for the cyclist.
OCA: Does exercise help you not get sick?
Josh: Absolutely! It’s thought that regular exercise helps boost numbers of a certain type of white blood cell (WBC) known as a natural killer (NK) cell. These cells are particularly efficient at fighting off certain viruses. During the fall/winter, the vast majority of illnesses are caused by viruses. Therefore, exercise during the fall/winter should continue in order to keep these NK cell numbers increased. It’s thought that the increased immunity brought on by exercise usually lasts only 3-4 hours, however the cumulative effect of routine exercise seems to keep active people healthier than those who are less active. Another bonus of regular exercise is its stress relieving effect. Lower stress leads to decreased levels of stress hormones (like cortisol). High levels of cortisol suppress the immune system.
OCA: Does proper rest help you not get sick?
Josh: Similar to the stress-relieving properties of exercise, rest and an appropriate amount of sleep gives your body a chance to recharge and reduce the buildup of cortisol. Melatonin, a hormone produced during sleep, is also thought to be beneficial to your immune system.
OCA: Is soap and hand washing the most effective tool for not getting sick?
Josh: I’d say it’s definitely one of the most effective (in addition to making sure your immunizations are up-to-date). The action of washing your hands physically removes viruses and bacteria that can make you sick. Hand sanitizers are good when you’re time-crunched or working with your hands a lot, but some types of pathogens have a capsule or coat surrounding them that can protect them from the detergents and chemicals in hand sanitizers and foams. It’s highly important to wash your hands before you eat.
OCA: So the average adult gets 3 colds per year, lasting roughly 9 days. What tips do you have once you feel a cold coming on?
Josh: Personally, the first thing I do when I begin to feel ill is increase my vitamin C intake. I take 3,000 mg of just plain vitamin C daily at the first hint of a cold. Also, as long as I’m not running a fever and having significant symptoms below my neck, I continue training (although I may stay indoors more). However, if I’m starting to have GI issues, a high fever, or generalized aches, I’ll take some days off to rest. Lastly, proper nutrition during even an acute illness has been shown to be beneficial. There’s some truth to the whole “chicken soup” therapy that you often hear about.
To see the previous post on skin health with Dr. Rankin click here.
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Dr. Joshua Rankin
FirstCare Family Doctors – Tontitown, a MANA Clinic
171 N. Maestri Rd.
Springdale, AR 72762
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