"My white blood cells were so low the doctor wanted to test me for cancer."

By Anthea Levi
March 22, 2017
Respiratory infections spread easily in any kind of close quarters, including gyms. “Any time you’re gathering with a bunch of other people in a closed space, that’s when you pick stuff up,” says Dr. Marcussen.Usually these viruses are transmitted through droplets from someone else’s coughs and sneezes, and most can live a little while outside the body. “If you grab a dumbbell that’s got influenza virus on it and touch your eye or wipe your mouth, at least theoretically you can get it,” Dr. Marcussen says.The best protection: Get your flu shot. Wash your hands or grab that alcohol-based sanitizer after leaving the gym once your workout is finished. And take precautions even if no one seems outwardly ill. “People are spreading these viruses before they even realize they’re sick,” Dr. Marcussen says.RELATED: 11 Reasons You Have a Stuffy Nose–and What to Do About It
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Here’s to a different kind of body transformation. On Instagram yesterday, fitness influencer Anna Victoria shared a follower’s photos that document her inspiring recovery from an extreme exercise habit.

In the "before" pic, @barbellkell_fbg is flexing her biceps in a bikini that shows off her chiseled six-pack. But what it took to get that sculpted bod was anything but healthy.

The photo on the left was taken a year and a half ago, when @barbellkell_fbg was committed to a 10-week plan that involved working out five times a week, sometimes twice a day, and counting macros (down to chewing gum, vitamins, and cough drops), she explains in the caption. "[Z]ero balance, zero living, zero sustainability," she wrote. "I had my full time job and this, which was another full time job basically."

The strict dieting and intense workouts took a serious toll. By the end of the plan, @barbellkell_fbg had a flat belly, and no trace of cellulite—but her energy levels had plummeted. "I could barely lift my feet to run on the treadmill," she wrote. A blood test showed her white blood cell count was severely depressed. It was so low her doctor wanted to test her for cancer, she says.

After convincing him to do another blood test in a month, @barbellkell_fbg committed to getting back to "normal." She ate "to survive," she said; and in time, she gained fat and her white blood cell count recovered.

OD'ing on exercise is a real thing, and it can cause everything from fatigue to chronic achiness—even an elevated heart rate, which puts more demand on your ticker. "Overexercising often contributes to pain, dehydration, or electrolyte imbalances, all of which can lead to an increase in heart rate," Kathryn Berlacher, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, explained to Health in a prior interview.

For more signs that you're overdoing it at the gym—and tips on how to scale back—check out our guide to the symptoms of overtraining.

As for @barbellkell_fbg, she's come a long way in the last 18 months. She now follows Anna Victoria’s Fit Body Guides, and eats what she wants in moderation. "I feel good. I am strong. I am happy," she says—and she loves the body she has now.