Feeling mildly ill? Exercise will do you good

Q and A



When I'm feeling myself getting sick, is it all right to hit the gym? If so, what kind of exercise is best?

Should you run a marathon when you're feeling under the weather? Definitely not. But should you hole up in bed, pull the covers over your head and avoid the gym altogether? Nope.

Unless you're running a fever, light to moderate cardiovascular exercise can actually help your body fend off a bug. Easy workouts on the treadmill, bike, stair climber or elliptical trainer are all potential immune-boosters. Listen to your body and follow its lead, but a light sweat will probably do you good.

And don't forget yoga and meditation. These practices can help soothe body and mind when you aren't feeling 100 percent.

A friend of mine who's a fitness buff told me the best way for me to improve the quality of my workouts is to cross-train more and "up my RPE." I didn't want to ask at the time, but what's RPE?

RPE, a subjective measure, stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion. The traditional RPE scale runs from 6 (practically effortless) to 20 (very intense, even exhausting), although some go by a scale of 1 to 10 instead.

In simple terms, your friend is saying that you should be picking up your exercise intensity to maximize your workouts. Don't, for instance, read the paper on the exercise bike each morning.

At the height of your routine, you should be breathing hard enough that talking comfortably is not easy. Overall, focus on challenging your body and don't worry too much about the numbers.

What's the key to running uphill? I feel so uncoordinated when I hit a hill, and my form feels off. My strides don't feel natural at all. What technical tips can you give me?

Don't let the difficulty of running uphill scare you. Hill running strengthens your glutes, calves, hamstrings and hip flexors more than running on flat terrain. It also works the upper body in ways that regular running doesn't. To handle the hills, try tweaking your stride using these tips:

Lean forward slightly into the hill.

Shorten your stride.

Lift your knees a bit higher.

Pump your arms.

Keep your head up.

Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun.com, or online at baltimoresun.com/healthscience, or in writing to The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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