To dance or not to dance—that is the question this time of year when many dancers start to feel the onset of cold or flu symptoms. While it can feel pretty miserable to cough or blow your nose every thirty seconds and you might want to stay in bed, light to moderate exercise might actually make you feel better! Doctors generally agree that if symptoms are “above the neck” like sneezing, sore throat, cough, sinus pressure, stuffy/runny nose, it’s okay to sweat! However, it’s important to listen to your body and judge for yourself if you’re up to doing more work.
Did you know that people who work out or dance regularly tend to get fewer and milder colds? Doctors recognize that dancing is one of the best exercises to do when sick or stressed out. People who dance regularly have more cold-fighting antibodies to boost their immune system.
A common symptom of the cold or flu is aching bones or joints and low energy levels. Stretching out before and after dancing can help to relieve the aches and pains, and moving around will get blood circulating to help your body fight off a cold more quickly. Yoga or similar movements and deep breathing can relieve symptoms temporarily.
Your regular cardio exercises like jogging or dancing can help you to decongest a stuffy nose and breathe more comfortably or reduce a pressure headache from congestion. However, don’t add anything to your workout routine that you don’t do normally. If walking around makes you nauseous or you think you might vomit, it’s probably not a good idea to try more intense exercises.
It’s extremely important to increase fluids when you’re sick, and especially if you’ll be exercising. Try adding a little boost of lemon (Vitamin C) to your water, and don’t share water bottles! You can help to prevent other dancers in your studio from getting sick by skipping class if you’re contagious or have a fever, or taking a few quick breaks to wash your hands with warm soapy water. Cold and flu viruses can spread through hand to hand contact of sweat, tears, saliva, or mucous. Avoid teams or ceilis, and close contact with other dancers.
When you’re sick you’ll want to avoid endurance and stamina drills. Your body is already working hard to heal, and too much exercise can reverse the effects. Especially for people with asthma, breathing will become more difficult when airways are inflamed and congested.
A nice hot shower with steam after dancing, or soaking foot bath with essential oils will definitely help get you back into your regular routine.
Photo credit: Flickr user Colin Harris
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