Exercising During Cold and Flu Season

Exercising During Cold and Flu Season

We are in the midst of cold and flu season. Have you taken the precautionary measures to avoid headaches and runny noses looming in every office building, school classroom and store this season?

We spoke with Chris McGilmer, MD, a sports and family medicine specialist at the Kaiser Permanente North Hollywood Medical Offices, who gave his expert advice on how to best protect the immune system this season and whether or not it’s okay to work out when sick.

This is what he shared:

How does exercise support our immune health?

Exercise, along with other healthy habits, can help strengthen our immune system. A healthy immune system protects us from infection and disease, including the viruses that cause colds and flu.

Some research has found that people who exercise regularly are less prone to illness because they have a better immune system response. Plus, exercise can help us manage stress and reduce the release of stress-related hormones. This is important because stress can be detrimental to our immune function. Other studies have found that exercise can help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways – thus reducing our risk of respiratory illness – and that exercise can boost our number of infection-fighting white blood cells.

Is it okay to work out when you’re sick? When is it safe to exercise?

Exercise is recommended as long as your illness is mild and feel well enough to work out. For example, most people who have a common cold or mild upper respiratory symptoms, like a stuffed or runny nose, are generally able to work out. You’ll very likely have to lower the intensity and you’ll definitely need to monitor your heart rate and breathing. Certain decongestants and cold medications can increase the heart rate. Although some individuals with asthma and other chronic respiratory health conditions can exercise without any issues, it’s best that they reach out to their doctor to see if they can continue being physically active while they are sick.

Please keep in mind that overexertion can make you feel worse and slow down your recovery.

When are you too sick to work out? When is exercise not recommended?

If you’re experiencing a fever of 101.5 degrees or more, body aches, congestion, gastrointestinal issues, or feeling weakness, please wait a few days before working out. Also, drink plenty of fluids while you’re recovering to avoid dehydration both while you’re sick and when you return to your fitness regimen.

When is it okay to return to your exercise routine?

Typically, it’s okay to return to your exercise routine 48 hours after a fever has broken or diarrhea or vomiting has stopped. Your best gauge is your overall well-being. If you feel good, great. If your body is telling you to take another day off, listen to it!


Can you really sweat out a cold?

No. Sweating methods, such as a sauna or steam room, inhaling warm steam and exercise can provide temporary relief by relieving nasal congestion and loosening up mucus, but they will not shorten your recovery time. It normally takes seven to 10 days to fully recover from a common cold. If you choose to incorporate a “sweat out method” as part of your treatment plan, drink plenty of fluids and be on the lookout for possible signs of dehydration. When you sweat, you not only release water; you also release electrolytes.


Prevention Tips
  1. Get an annual flu shot. This is your best line of defense.
  2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Our immune system needs a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to function well.
  3. Get enough sleep. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a weakened immune system.
  4. Wash your hands constantly. A 20-second wash with soap and warm water is the best, but if water isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  5. Avoid touching your face. The most common way germs get into the body is via the face.
  6. Manage your stress levels. Chronic stress can increase your risk of illness.
  7. Avoid overtraining and exerting your body. Listen to your body and give it time to recover.
  8. If you exercise in a gym or fitness club, sanitize the equipment before and after your workout to minimize the spread of germs.

Content contributed by Chris McGilmer, MD, a sports and family medicine specialist at the Kaiser Permanente North Hollywood Medical Offices. 

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Member Spotlight | Meet Elite Fitness Athlete, Matt Harrison

Member Spotlight | Meet Elite Fitness Athlete, Matt Harrison

My Name is Matt Harrison. Six months ago, I set out to accomplish something I once considered impossible, now I am an Elite athlete.

Late 2017, at 34 years old, I found myself divorced, out of shape and satisfied with a familiar routine. I lacked hobbies, goals, and ambition. I didn’t know the feeling of pushing past my comfort zone. Life was passing me by. Feeling lost and alone, I turned to a friend who offered some wise words. He said, “Quit being a victim.” Through self-reflection, I realized the influence fear and doubt had on my daily decision-making. I was afraid to do anything unfamiliar or uncomfortable. More importantly-I was afraid to fail, afraid to lead, and afraid to strive for greatness. This realization awoke a burning desire to follow my passion and pursue fitness as a professional athlete.

This started with 3 commitments to myself:

  1. Be honest in personal assessments.
  2. Holding myself accountable.
  3. Surround myself with a positive community.

I competed in my first Spartan Race early March 2018. Starting training3 weeks prior, I had never run a race before, let alone 15 miles with obstacles. I was nervous and apprehensive to register for my first race but felt the time had come to face my fears and grow. My first race was a rude awakening. Lacking the strength and conditioning to complete the course at an elite level, I made a commitment to seek coaching and train harder every single day until my goal is reached. With a renewed perspective, I applied myself to the sport more than anything before. I no longer had the mindset of trying, but instead found the will to do what it takes, for as long as it takes.

In searching for coaches and accountability, I found much more. I found community and friends who took a serious interest in my success. I recognized limited beliefs that were keeping me from achieving my goals. I discovered friendships, family, and support when just a few months prior I felt alone and aimless. I learned to appreciate the journey and live in the moment. In the past 6 months, I climbed my first mountain, accomplished the largest elevation gain hike in North America, summited 11 peaks in under 24 hours and competed in 7 Spartan races finishing with2 Spartan podiums and qualifying for the 2018 Spartan Race World Championship.

I train hard as if I am the best in the world. At times I’m doubtful, tired, sore and even discouraged, but with a supportive team and my new-found mindset, I’ll never quit and continue to grow. Now 7 races into my Spartan career with an opportunity to race for the World Championship in September, I find myself in a position I could not have dreamed for myself just 6 months ago. Aside from physical strength and conditioning, I gained mental strength, wisdom, and relationships. Through fitness, I’m learning to live, love and appreciate the moment. Through fitness, I am taking back the reigns of my destiny.

To find out more about Matt’s story, check out our podcast episode How to Train Like an Elite Athlete, here.

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Gearing Up for The Holidays (9 Tips to Help Stay in Shape This Season)

Gearing Up for The Holidays (9 Tips to Help Stay in Shape This Season)

The last two months of the year tend to be full of holiday parties, family gatherings, cozy evenings indoors and an abundance of tasty treats. All this can greatly derail the health strides we’ve made throughout the year. While we all know how challenging it is to maintain our healthy habits during the holiday season, with a little determination, planning, and commitment, we can survive the holidays and start the New Year off right.

How to Stay on Track

Select your beverages wisely: Between the bubbly, the eggnog, the gingerbread lattes and the peppermint flavored mochas, a person can easily consume up to a third of their recommended caloric intake with just one drink! Instead, opt for fruit-infused sparkling water, cinnamon or fresh peppermint tea, a wine seltzer (half wine, half seltzer water, half the calories), and if you really want to satisfy the craving, a smaller and lighter version of your favorite holiday drink!

Practice portion control and be selective! You don’t have to stay away from all holiday foods! Treat yourself to one serving of your favorite dish and pair with fresh or steamed fruits and vegetables.

If you’re attending a party or a potluck, take a healthy dish. This guarantees that you’ll have access to at least one nutritious option.

Beware of those lunch room snacks! Yes…those cookies, cakes, and breads that magically appear by the coffee pot. Partake in the conversation with your colleagues and bring along your own healthy snack.

Satisfy a craving with a bite-size treat. You don’t need a full serving. Plus, if you don’t love it, don’t eat it.

Tips to Stay in Shape Over the Holidays

Lack of exercise and unhealthy eating lead to weight gain. They also increase our risk of disease and make it more difficult to manage chronic illness.

  1. Get your annual flu vaccine. Holiday stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits – all these can weaken our immune system and increase our risk of illness. When we receive our annual flu shot, we greatly lower our risk of catching the flu, developing flu-related complications and having to take time off due to illness.
  2. Partner-up or even better, group-up! When you make a commitment with another person, you’re more likely to honor it. After all, no one likes a flake! A fitness partner can help motivate you, challenge you, pace you, and best of all, make it fun!
  3. Start your day with a morning work-out! Exercise is not only crucial for weight control, but it can also help us cope with holiday stress. One of the benefits of the recent time change is the fact that it gets lighter earlier. Become a morning person! Not only will you feel more energetic and accomplished throughout the day, but it also frees up your evening.
  4. On those rainy days, try an indoor workout! Yoga, Tai Chi, a 30-minute dance session, a stairs workout, heck, even musical chairs with the kids! Try anything that gets you moving!
  5. Start the day with a healthy breakfast. People who eat breakfast end up eating fewer calories throughout the day. Make sure you include a complex carb like oatmeal, whole grain bread or quinoa. Add some berries to your morning oatmeal for a delicious meal.
  6. Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals leads to hunger-eating which results in overeating. Consume healthy snacks throughout the day. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and non-fat yogurt are all great choices.
  7. Keep your body well hydrated. Regardless of the temperature outside, our body needs enough fluid to function properly. Our body can confuse thirst for hunger, and this can result in overeating.
  8. Take it easy! Holiday stress can make you feel overwhelmed. Only take on what you can handle. Ask for help and realize that it’s ok to say no.
  9. Make it a priority to get 7-8 hours of sleep. When we’re lacking sleep, our appetite is one of the first things to become skewed, thus resulting in weight gain. That’s because you’re more likely to consume extra calories from high fat and high sugar foods to cover the energy cost of staying awake. Lack of sleep impacts our hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin) hormones. It also causes a spike in our cortisol levels, signaling our body to conserve energy to fuel our waking hours.

Content contributed by Dr. Sean Hashmi, an Obesity Medicine Specialist and the Adult Weight Management Lead for Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

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Anything is Possible: The Story of Matt Martin-Hall (And His Quest for Running Success)

Anything is Possible: The Story of Matt Martin-Hall (And His Quest for Running Success)

I’ve always had a strong academic and metaphysical fascination with what makes us human. So much so that while studying digital video and audio production in college, I also majored in Anthropology- the study of human beings.  Fast forward five or six years after graduation and I find myself sitting behind a desk well into the “cushy corporate gig” phase of my career, still making videos and producing a wide range of audio projects for LA Fitness; feeling like I’m only using half of my education; that question still relatively unanswered and still burning.

What makes us human?

If asking that question is ultimately asking, “What makes us unique from other mammals or creatures with whom we share the condition of possessing vertebrae?”, then the answer is simple: Bipedal ambulation (walking on two feet) and our brains ability to create and operate abstractions (imagine a cat composed of various citrus fruits with a baby shark for a tail. That thing you see in your head, that’s what I mean. So far as we know, only humans can conjure that up).

After a few existential breakdowns into my job here at LA Fitness, I had resigned myself to the reality that these partial answers to such a big question would have to suffice. There was no sense in pursuing them further. I worked for a gym. The place people go to get fit, not answer big questions. In my mind, those two things were forever incongruous.

Then a few important things happened that changed my mind quite profoundly:

  1. I read a book titled Born to Run by Christopher McDougall to learn more about the indigenous Tarahumara of Mexico’s Copper Canyons.
  2. I fell in love with a long-distance runner (whom I originally bought that book for).
  3. I succumbed to the unbridled peer pressure to try and be fit at work. Something that naturally exists in a place whose primary function is to promote and provide an environment to do just that.
  4. I agreed to be a part of a spotlight series at work where I go from the couch to accomplishing some athletic feat.
  5. I fit into a pair of jeans.

I think the most magnificent abstraction we’ve created as humans is linear time. The idea of seconds begetting minutes begetting hours begetting days and so on as if a series of incremental points on a timeline. None of this existed until the 14th century, whence the clock prevailed as a timekeeper. It’s from the invention of the clock and the hours and seconds contained within it that we have this perception of time. What makes this seem like such grand ruse of an abstraction is that: it wasn’t until I fit into some jeans yesterday that I realized or felt like all these things happened FOR something. I mean, of course, I knew sequentially when I had read and finished the book; what made me fall in love with my girlfriend and when; why I had agreed to do the spotlight series; when I walked into the gym and started forming that habit; when I fit into the jeans; and in what order these all occurred. But some genie was released from the bottle when I clasped the top button and didn’t feel like I should face away from the mirror out of fear of that button bursting off and shattering my reflection. A genie that couldn’t be returned after I needed a belt to fasten those same jeans to my waist.

All at once past, present and future, happened to me; The book I read piqued my interest in long-distance running; it taught me about our adaptation to sweat and endure beyond that of any other vertebrate. I was standing at the finish line of her marathon, the first one I attended, filled with pride as she caught her breath. I was walking into the gym for the first time at 29 running a 5k on the treadmill to see if I could (I could). I was poised and excited to pounce on this opportunity at work to serve my (until now unadmitted) vanity. I was attaining the great sense of accomplishment after fitting into three older pairs of jeans. And I was standing there, at the end of my own first race, dead tired but proud beyond comprehension.

The last of these events hasn’t happened yet. But it will. Past, present, future: All at once. I intend to explore the depth of the answers to my initial question. Though, presently, I find myself in a familiar dilemma: exploring and challenging the nature of human abstraction is only one part of the answer. If I’m to truly dive into this journey, I must do one more thing. That thing will require me to not just push myself, but figure out how to push myself, and what it means to push myself to do it. It’s no big reveal, you see, I’ve already told you what it is. It all happened at once, remember?

I. Must. Run.

And I will. A half marathon at first, a full marathon at last, and I’ll tell you all about it.

*Matt is a current employee of LA Fitness.  While the opinions herein are Matt’s own, Matt receives a free membership in connection with his employment. 

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Member Spotlight | Understand Your Body and Change Your Life

Member Spotlight | Understand Your Body and Change Your Life

What are your current fitness goals?

My number one fitness goal, now and always, is to keep my autoimmune disease under control. Additionally, it is always a goal of mine to live a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. I like to find the balance between enjoying my time in the gym and enjoying other activities, like eating out and having popcorn at the movies or a hot dog at a baseball game. It is so important to me to maintain a long-term and sustainable healthy lifestyle. Being too restrictive with my diet does not work for me!

How has training helped shape/change your fitness lifestyle?

Training has changed my mind, body, and soul! I remember how uncomfortable I felt in my body before I began my fitness journey, and before I started lifting weights. I hated the way I looked and I had to change my outfit 500x before leaving the house because I couldn’t stand the way I looked in my own clothes. Through weight training and proper nutrition, I have been able to shape a body that I truly love and enjoy. This has absolutely transformed my mindset. I am more self-confident and comfortable in my own skin. This transformation not only has an impact on my relationship with myself but also has leaked over into other aspects of my life, such as my job and relationships with others.

Left: July 2017 | Right: July 2018

What got you to join LA Fitness? How has it influenced your life?

I had tried different things to try to get in shape and lose weight in my young adult life, from Weight Watchers to diet pills. None of these options worked for me because they were not sustainable long-term. The turning point for me was my diagnosis with an autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) Syndrome in March of 2017. Autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body mistakes its own healthy cells as foreign invaders and attacks them. In my case, Sjogren’s Syndrome mainly affects the moisture-producing glands, such as the nose, mouth, and eyes. I was 23 years old and the doctors told me I had to be on medication for the rest of my life. Fearing the implications of what a long-term medication might do to me, I started seeking out holistic treatment options. First and foremost, I researched foods, proper nutrition and how I could use food to heal. I eliminated gluten and dairy from my diet to see how I would respond. Although I wasn’t eating those “unhealthy” options, I still struggled to lose weight because I didn’t know much about general nutrition and hadn’t learned proper portion control. Within two weeks without dairy, my cystic acne disappeared. I knew that I was on to something with food for healing and eating for health. I reintroduced gluten successfully, with no issues. When I reintroduced dairy, my stomach was very upset and my acne returned. I am still eating a dairy-free diet to this day. It was such an empowering experience to get to know how my body responds to certain foods.

Around the same time, my boyfriend and I decided to join LA Fitness in hopes of getting into shape. We realized we had put on some “relationship weight” in our first year together, but it wasn’t until we started actually getting into the gym that we realized how bad it had gotten. Between his knowledge of weight training and my knowledge of nutrition at that point, we began to learn and share with one another. We decided to start tracking our macronutrient intake and weighing out our foods. It was during this time that we learned the proper portion sizes for our bodies and the nutritional value of different food options. It was the perfect combination and it started to actually work. I have lost a total of 30 pounds and my boyfriend lost a total of 75 pounds, leaving us with over 100 pounds lost between us!

If you could give others one piece of advice, what would it be?

My biggest piece of advice would be to be patient with yourself and stay committed to your overall health. It’s not just about how you look, it’s about how you feel in your body, and how your body is functioning. By staying committed for the long haul, you will experience sustainable, long-term health and fitness. There are no quick fixes. Just keep going to the gym, keep fueling your body with healthy and nourishing options and the rest will follow.

Summer S.

LAF Member

IG: @summersenna 

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