Community Buzz: "I'm Fit and I Don't Get Sick!"

Plus, what to do when you really need a mental health day

Do you sniffle your way through winter, wondering when your cold is going to go away, or are you the type of person who can’t remember the last time she was sick? As we recently reported, how often you become bedridden may have something to do with how fit you are. The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that, on average, people are sick for eight days in the fall and 13 days in the winter. However, people who work out regularly have 43 percent fewer sick days than those who never exercise.

An informal poll on the Gym Rats message board seemed to confirm the study’s findings. While iVillage member jeanwl can remember the last time she was sick, it was, unbelievably, more than 10 years ago. “Knock on wood, but I haven't had a cold or anything since February, 1999,” says the avid gym-goer.

“I don't get sick too often,” agrees gymrat76, though she did come down with the swine flu last year. And usually the colds she does get are low-grade enough that she can still go to work, she explains. That would probably come as no surprise to researchers, who found that when people who work out do get sick, they have 32 to 41 percent fewer symptoms.

“I can't even remember the last time I was sick, and I work in a school around hundreds of kids,” says cathypem. “Another thing that matters, I think, besides eating right and working out, is not putting your hands in your mouth or in your eyes unless you've washed them. So I don't bite my cuticles while I'm at work -- a bad habit of mine -- or rub my eyes, things like that. I'm a total germaphobe when I'm out!”

I don’t think I’ve been consistent enough with my workout routines to know if it makes a difference in my getting sick or not. But I do know that once I quit my office job and started working from home, the number of colds I get dropped dramatically. I enjoy my work more, which makes my stress more manageable, and I don’t have to contend with people coughing on me on the subway every morning.

How often do you get sick -- and do you think exercise helps keep you healthy? Join the conversation on the message board.

Of course, not all sick days are due to a cold or flu. When we feel like playing hooky from work, we sometimes joke that we’re taking a mental health day. But some people who suffer from emotional health issues really do need to call in sick when their mood is unstable. Jamiedee1999, who struggles with depression, feels guilty every time she misses work, and wonders what she should tell her boss.

“Very rarely is my depression so bad that I feel like I need to take time off. And even when it is, I don't. I just push myself. [But when I do call in sick] I feel bad, like I'm lying. I feel like my depression has been exacerbated by all the stress I'm feeling at work. Maybe I should just tell my boss I'm feeling too heavy a work or stress load? I don't want to tell them I have depression, though,” she says on the Depression Support board. It is true that chronic stress can cause or worsen depression. But how do you talk to your boss about it when so many people consider stress as an inevitable part of a job?

“I would not tell your boss you have depression, nor would I tell them your workload is too heavy. Even though you ‘should’ be able to tell your boss these two things, it could jeopardize your job. I would also talk to your therapist and get his or her input on the issue,” says sunset5000.

iVillage member Lovepoe agrees that Jamie should proceed with caution. “Is your boss the kind that would be receptive to hearing about the heavy workload? Since you aren't habitually taking off from work, I don't see a problem with you taking a day off. It is to better your health after all.”

What’s your take? Should people with mental health conditions adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with their employers? And if job stress is making her depression worse, what can she do to fix it? Talk about it on the message board or chime in below.

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