A few years ago I used to suffer dreadfully with sinusitis. Since I started cycling regularly, it’s gone. Coincidence?
It would always start with a blocked nose, the kind that no matter how hard you tried, it was impossible to blow properly and clear the nasal passages. This would build up over a week or so to the point where the pressure inside my skull was agonising. I remember one time, going to my GP who was so alarmed by my blood pressure, he admitted me straight to hospital.
They ordered an MRI scan, and I remember lying on a trolley waiting to go in, suffering the most agonising pain I’d ever experienced, and thinking that I must have some kind of wild brain tumour and this was the beginning of the end. Cheery huh?
That was when I discovered it was sinusitis. After a few more years of putting up with it, which usually involved at least one episode per year that was so bad I would end up having to take time off sick, sometimes up to a week. Even when the worst was over, the residual effect of a very fuzzy head and not being able to think straight, would persist for a couple of weeks.
Eventually I was offered surgery to straighten out the nasal septum – the central dividing wall between the two nostrils. I decided to go for it, and whilst it certainly made breathing through my nose much easier, and blowing my nose too, I’d still occasionally get the infections.
Then I got into cycling.
And everything changed.
There’s a few basic physiological things that happen when you exercise, and one of them is an increase in mucus production. Most people experience a higher volume of watery mucus when running or cycling. As Tom Jones might put it, “It’s snot unusual”.
I usually experience this about 15 to 20 minutes into a ride. Once I’ve warmed up properly, if I’m riding at a moderate to hard intensity, I’ll notice a slight congestion building up, but this is very easily cleared by blowing.
By riding regularly, this frequent “clear out” prevents any longer term build up, limiting the likelihood that anything is going to get infected and inflamed.
I can honestly say that since I’ve been riding regularly – two or three times per week, for the last 18 months, I have not had to go to see my GP about my sinuses. Not once.
So, to anyone suffering with sinusitis, don’t just rely on what pharmaceutical companies want you to buy. Exercise can really help, and once you’re fit, you’ll enjoy the many other benefits that go hand in hand with physical fitness.