- Exercising When Sick: Should You or Shouldn’t You?
- You Asked: Should I Exercise When I’m Sick?
- Thank you!
- Should you exercise when you’re sick?
- Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?
- Can You Work Out While You Have the Flu?
- What Are the Risks of Exercising While Sick?
- Follow the Above-the-Neck Rule to Be Safe
- Go Slowly and Pace Yourself Accordingly
- If You Don’t Want to Opt Out, Take It Easy
- Finally: Don’t Get Others Sick at Your Gym
- Can You Work Out When You’re Sick? Here’s What Experts Say
- What Really Happens When You Work Out When You’re Sick
- How can you boost immune system with your diet and hydration?
- How long should you rest?
- Exercising while you’re sick
- Think about skipping the gym
- Should I Work Out When I’m Sick?
- If you have a simple cold or cough . . . scale back on the intensity.
- If you have a fever or the flu . . . skip the workout.
- If you have aches and pains . . . listen to your body.
- The Best Way to Start Exercising Again After Being Sick
Exercising When Sick: Should You or Shouldn’t You?
The answer depends on what ails you, experts tell WebMD. For example, exercising with a cold may be OK, but if you’ve got a fever, hitting the gym is a definite no-no.
Fever is the limiting factor, says Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a New York City-based sports medicine expert. “The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever, because that can make you even sicker,” he tells WebMD. If you have a fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, sit this one out.
Maharam’s rule of thumb for exercising when sick? “Do what you can do, and if you can’t do it, then don’t,” he says. “Most people who are fit tend to feel worse if they stop their exercise, but if you have got a bad case of the flu and can’t lift your head off the pillow, then chances are you won’t want to go run around the block.”
Personal trainer and exercise physiotherapist Geralyn Coopersmith, senior manager of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute in New York, has this to add: “The general rule is that if it is just a little sniffle and you take some medications and don’t feel so sick, it’s OK to work out. But if you have any bronchial tightness, it’s not advisable to be working out.”
You really need to know your limits, she says. “If you are feeling kind of bad, you may want to consider a walk instead of a run. Take the intensity down or do a regenerative activity like yoga or Pilates because if you don’t feel great, it may not be the best day to do your sprints,” says Coopersmith, the author of Fit and Female: The Perfect Fitness and Nutrition Game Plan for Your Unique Body Type.
“A neck check is a way to determine your level of activity during a respiratory illness,” adds Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and tearing eyes, then it’s OK to exercise,” he says. “If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, then it’s time to hang up the running shoes until these symptoms subside.”
You wake up one morning, and you don’t feel very well. Maybe your sinuses are stuffed up, or perhaps you’ve got a little diarrhea.
You’ve scheduled some barbell training or a run for later that day, but you’re thinking about bagging the workout so you can just focus on recovering.
Is that the right call? Should you skip an exercise session when you’re feeling sick?
This is a question that I put to my online strength training coach, Matt Reynolds, owner of Barbell Logic Online Coaching, a few weeks ago when I was a bit under the weather.
Short answer: no, you probably don’t need to skip your workout.
Nuanced answer: read on.
When You Should Definitely NOT Train
According to Matt, the only times you should skip a workout due to sickness is if you’re running a fever above 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit or you’re regularly vomiting or having diarrhea.
Matt’s prescription is backed by medical professionals. According to sports medicine doctor Lewis G. Maharam, exercising with a fever can cause your already high internal body temperature to increase, which will only make you feel sicker.
Isolated bouts of vomiting or diarrhea by themselves typically aren’t reasons for skipping a workout, but if you’re doing it on the regular, then from a practical perspective you need to skip; as Matt put it, “You don’t want to sh*t your pants or vomit on the floor while you’re working out.” You’d also be putting yourself at risk for dehydration.
Another guideline out there about training while sick is the “neck rule.” If all your symptoms are above the neck (runny nose, headache, sneezing, etc.) go ahead and train. If your symptoms are below the neck (chest cold, body ache, fever), then skip.
If You Have to Ask “Should I Train Today?” You Should Train
Barring a fever or ongoing vomiting/diarrhea, you should exercise even if you feel under the weather. As Matt told me, “If you have to ask the question, ‘Should I train today?’ then you should train. If you’re sick enough not to exercise, you’ll know it.”
So if you have a sinus infection, low-grade fever, bad allergies, the sniffles, headache, already-concluded vomiting or diarrhea, or just feel under the weather, go ahead and train.
The reason you work out even when you’re feeling a little sick is simply for the sake of maintaining consistency in your fitness program. “The goal of weight training while sick isn’t to get stronger,” Matt told me. “We’re trying to avoid going backward with our progress. We’re avoiding de-training. My clients that have had the most success are the ones who consistently work out, even when they haven’t been 100%. Consistency is key to getting stronger.”
The days you have to work out when you’re sick, Matt calls “Blue-Collar Training Days.” Just like a blue-collar job, the workout that day will be hard, and you’re probably not going to look forward to it, but just like a blue-collar job, you put on your proverbial hardhat, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.
Adjusting Your Training While You’re Sick
While you should train even if you’re sick, Matt recommends changing your workout a bit, so you don’t tax your body too much.
“Keep the intensity up, but decrease volume,” he says. You can maintain intensity and drop volume in a few different ways. For our example, let’s say you’re doing a barbell training program like Starting Strength. One way to maintain intensity while dropping volume would be to lift the same weight you would normally, but do a rep scheme like 2×5 or 3×3 instead of doing 3×5.
Another way to maintain intensity and drop volume would be to keep the same weight and rep scheme on your main barbell lifts, but cut out the accessory work like chin-ups and dips.
Besides reducing volume on days you’re sick, Matt also recommends dropping any HIIT cardio sessions you might be doing after a training session. “HIIT just elevates your internal body temp, and that’s not good when you’re feeling sick. Just do the main lifts, and get back to eating and sleeping well for recovery,” Matt advises.
For runners, maintain the same speed you usually run, but cut back on the distance .
My Experience Training While Sick
Since beginning to work with Matt back in 2015, I’ve been hit a few times with sickness. The only time he’s had me bag a workout, however, was when I had a fever or was chronically vomiting. The other times, he still had me hit the weights, even if I felt like crap.
For example, a few weeks ago I got sidelined with the stomach flu and spent an entire night vomiting. I was scheduled to train the next day. I emailed Matt and asked if I should skip. He replied, “If you’re not throwing up now, then go ahead and train. Make sure you get in plenty of water before the session.” He had me lower the volume, but maintain the weight I was scheduled to lift. That session sucked, but I got it done.
You may even surprise yourself with how well you perform in the gym, despite being under the weather. A few months ago, I woke up with a sinus infection — congestion, headache, and a general crappy feeling. I figured I’d have a terrible session, but I managed to hit a rep PR on my deadlift of 410×5. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I had bagged the workout.
So the next time you’re feeling under the weather and asking yourself if you should train that day, now you know the answer is probably yes.
Get after it.
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You Asked: Should I Exercise When I’m Sick?
If you want to protect yourself from colds and flu, regular exercise may be the ultimate immunity-booster. Studies have shown that moderate aerobic exercise—around 30 to 45 minutes a day of activities like walking, biking or running—can more than halve your risk for respiratory infections and other common winter maladies.
There’s some evidence that very intense exercise—running a marathon, say—can briefly suppress your immune function, says Dr. Bruce Barrett, a professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. But in general, physical activity is a great way to shield yourself from illness, he says.
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Other experts agree. “Your immune system needs activity to do its job better,” says David Nieman, a professor and director of the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University. “Every time you exercise, you increase the circulation of important immune cells.”
But once you’ve caught a bug and are feeling crummy, the story changes. “Exercise is great for prevention, but it can be lousy for therapy,” Nieman says.
Research from Ball State University shows that moderate exercise has no effect on the duration or severity of the common cold. “If your symptoms are neck up—things like sinus and nasal congestion, sore throat, etc.—exercise neither helps nor hurts,” Nieman says. If you feel up to it, there doesn’t seem to be much harm in continuing to work out, he adds.
But if you have the flu or other forms of fever-causing systemic infections, exercise is a bad idea.
MORE: Here’s Why the Flu Is Especially Bad This Year
“Back in the 1940s during the polio epidemic, some investigators noticed that athletes who played a hard game of football were coming down with the more severe form of polio,” Nieman says. This observation led to follow-up studies on the way viruses respond to exercise in both primates and humans. The sum and substance of those studies, Nieman says, is that a body infected with flu can react very poorly to physical activity. “A lot of athletes have this idea that, if I have a fever, I should sweat it out,” he says. “That’s the craziest idea ever.”
Other experts repeat his warnings. “Never exercise with flu or fever,” says Mariane Fahlman, a professor of health education at Wayne State University.
Fahlman has examined how training affects the immune function of cross country runners. She says that when a person is suffering from flu or some other fever-causing infection, his immune system is working overtime to fight off that infection. Exercise is a form of physical stress that makes the immune system’s task more difficult.
There may be far more serious consequences.
In the 1990s, researchers in Australia found evidence that some athletes who continued to exercise while suffering from flu developed a form of chronic fatigue syndrome that, in some cases, stuck around for several years. “These are painful case histories to read,” Nieman says. “We don’t know exactly what’s going on, but my belief is that the virus spreads throughout the body in a subclinical form and engages the immune system and makes the individual feel tired.”
MORE: TIME’s Guide To Exercise
He says the research on this phenomenon is far from conclusive, but that he’s personally worked with dozens of athletes who have suffered from this form of prolonged, virus-induced fatigue. Even after their infection was gone, they’ve reported feeling weak and tired, and some have not been able to perform at their previous level for months or even years.
“I know that not exercising at all is a bitter pill for many to swallow,” Nieman says. (He’s run 58 marathons himself, so he knows how difficult it can be to take a week or two off from training.) “But if you have the flu or anything that causes fever or muscles aches or weakness, that’s a time to not exercise at all.”
Once your fever has subsided, wait a full week before easing yourself back into exercise, he says. Start with long walks, and progress to moderate workouts. By the end of the second week post-fever, if you’re feeling good, you can return to your usual training. “If you have any muscle aches or weakness, you want those to be gone before you try vigorous exercise,” he adds. “You may feel like you can push through it to feel better, but this is wrong.”
Like a broken arm or sprained ankle, your flu-weakened body needs time and rest to fully heal before it can stand up to the rigors of exercise.
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Should you exercise when you’re sick?
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You just worked out all of the kinks in your workout routine and now…you’re sick. What do you do? Do you sweat through it or forsake the gym for a much-needed nap? Follow these tips for working out when you’re sick.
Listen to your body
If your symptoms are mild such as sniffles, sneezing or light coughing, you’re probably okay to continue your normal routine. Listen to your body, and use your best judgment based on the severity of your symptoms.
If you begin to experience more severe symptoms such as fever, nausea, headaches or diarrhea, the gym is a definite no-no. Exercising can often make matters worse and cause complications. Consult your healthcare provider about your symptoms, and allow time for your symptoms to improve.
Still debating whether or not you should exercise? Follow this simple rule of thumb: Only do as much as you’re up for. You may feel well enough for a yoga session, but the treadmill makes you queasy. Or perhaps you aren’t feeling up for the gym at all, and that’s okay. Your body will thank you for squeezing in a couple of extra rest days.
Change up your workout
If your illness is manageable and you still plan to exercise, consider switching up your workout. Low-intensity activities such as walking, swimming, biking and yoga are great ways to exercise without throwing your system into overdrive. High-intensity training such as powerlifting, sprints, team sports and exercising in extreme temperatures can push your body to the limits, and may cause more harm in the long run. For this reason, try to keep your workouts short, ideally no more than 30 to 45 minutes, and focus on lower-impact options.
If you’re experiencing a cold or the flu, chances are your symptoms will be sticking around for a while. Complete recovery can take up to 10 days, sometimes longer. For the best recovery and minimal disruption to your routine, we recommend avoiding exercise when your symptoms are at their worst. Once your symptoms begin to improve you can slowly work up to your normal routine. Start slow, keep your workouts short and give yourself ample time to get back into the swing of things.
Working out when under the weather Provided by University of Colorado at Boulder Citation: Should you exercise when you’re sick? (2019, January 23) retrieved 2 February 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-01-youre-sick.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
A sore throat, achy muscles and a runny nose can make you miserable, but if you still have the energy to exercise, should you? Aside from infecting everyone else at the gym, what’s the real danger? The good news: Fit people recover from illnesses quicker and experience milder symptoms than couch potatoes, according to a 2011 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Raul Seballos, M.D., vice-chair of the department of preventive medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, suggests the following guidelines for exercising before, during and after a cold or flu.
Q: When you feel a cold or flu coming on, should you change your regular workout routine?
A: If you feel like you’re coming down with a garden-variety cold, you can still exercise without significant limitations. If you begin to feel worse after your workout, however, cut back. Take a few days off or reduce your effort to 50% of your normal capacity. Walk for 15 minutes instead of running for 30 minutes, or do one set of lifting instead of five. Also keep in mind the above-the-neck rule: If your symptoms include a runny nose, dry cough, or sneezing, you should be fine to exercise. But if your symptoms are below the neck, such a chest congestion, muscle aches, upset stomach, etc., make sure to rest.
Q: What should you do when you’re in the midst of a cold or flu? (Does it help to “sweat out” a fever?)
A: Stay home if you have a fever, stomach symptoms or the flu. If you’re wiped out with fatigue there’s no reason to work out. Plus, you’re contagious the first five to seven days. Rest allows your immune system to recover. Get to bed early and get extra sleep, drink plenty of fluids (no alcohol), take over-the-counter cold and flu medicines or ibuprofen as you recover.
Q: When should you resume your regular exercise routine after you’ve recovered?
A: Again, listen to your body. Colds typically last for a week to 10 days, but you may need as many as two to three weeks to recover from the flu, depending on the severity. Don’t go 100% for the first three or four days. Start at 75% of your normal workout (for both cardio and weights) and increase gradually for the first week or so. If you try to go back too soon, you may just end up prolonging recovery phase. You may also be more short of breath if you’re recovering from an upper respiratory infection.
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Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?
The common cold typically shows up as a runny nose, cough, and scratchy throat, without a fever. With a cold, says Dr. Bayes, if you exercise within the limits of your comfort level, it’s unlikely to do you harm — and may even help you feel better.
Can You Work Out While You Have the Flu?
Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, runny nose, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. Experts say that it’s a good idea to forgo working out when you’re this sick. “Exercising with influenza can weaken you further and can potentially put others at risk,” says Bayes.
In addition, working out too intensely while sick can make fighting off infection more difficult, says Kenton Fibel, MD, a family medicine physician specializing in sports medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. That means it may take longer for you to get better.
RELATED: Everyday Health Flu Map
“When you get sick, sometimes it’s okay to take a few days off from your workout to allow your body to better fight off the infection,” says Dr. Fibel. Rest can allow your body to recover more quickly and help you get back to your workouts sooner.
What Are the Risks of Exercising While Sick?
People who have the flu or a lung infection can get worse if they continue working out while sick, says Thomas Trojian, MD, a professor in the department of family, community, and preventive medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia and the chief of Drexel’s sports medicine division.
Exercising with the flu may cause inflammation of the heart, or myocarditis. Symptoms of myocarditis include these signs:
- Chest pain
- Rapid or abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmia
- Shortness of breath at rest or during physical activity
- Fluid retention, with swelling of your legs, ankles, and feet
If you think you’re experiencing arrhythmia, contact your doctor immediately; it could lead to cardiac arrest, adds Dr. Trojian.
RELATED: Heart Attack Symptoms
Follow the Above-the-Neck Rule to Be Safe
One way to determine the severity of your illness before you exercise is to conduct a neck check. “You can exercise if your symptoms are all above the neck, like a runny nose, nasal congestion, or a sore throat,” says Trojian.
Below the neck symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, or muscle aches are signs that you should let your body rest and recover, notes Fibel.
Always avoid exercising when you have a fever.
Go Slowly and Pace Yourself Accordingly
If you decide that you can exercise safely, it’s best to reduce the workout load and see if symptoms worsen. Try exercising for 10 to 15 minutes, says Trojian. If symptoms intensify, stop and rest. If symptoms don’t become worse, continue working out if you feel up to it.
Keep in mind, says Trojian, that some symptoms may intensify. A runny nose will get more runny with exercise because “it is a great nasal decongestant,” he says. A postnasal drip cough will cause more coughing.
RELATED: 7 Natural Remedies for Congestion Relief
If You Don’t Want to Opt Out, Take It Easy
Low-intensity workouts such as walking or biking are much better ideas than, say, soccer or basketball, says Bayes, adding, “Keeping your exercise at the level where you can talk with a partner is a good rule of thumb.” Also, remember to stay hydrated.
Athletes need to remember that their performance may be negatively impacted when sick, notes Trojian. A study published in April 2017 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that runners diagnosed with an acute systemic illness less than 24 hours before race day were less likely to finish the competition.
But it’s better to avoid intense physical activity altogether. Participating in marathons or endurance races may severely harm your recovery or put your body at an energy deficit, says Bayes.
RELATED: Cold Weather Workouts — When to Stay In
Finally: Don’t Get Others Sick at Your Gym
Another point to think about when exercising while sick is the possibility of spreading your illness to other people, says Fibel. Spreading illness by sneezing or sharing towels or water bottles is a real concern.
He suggests the following hygiene tips to help keep fellow gym goers healthy:
- Wash your hands before working out.
- Clean off your equipment after using it.
- Use hand sanitizer as needed to keep your hands clean and free of germs.
“As a recreational athlete, it’s wise to put your fellow athletes’ safety first and sit out competition until you feel better,” says Bayes.
Can You Work Out When You’re Sick? Here’s What Experts Say
Getting sick is a bummer on all fronts. Being all sneezy and achy while feeling under the weather is no one’s idea of fun. And for those who like to stay active, the interruption to your fitness routine can be especially annoying. But can you work out when you’re sick?
According to TIME, exercise can help protect you from colds and flu year round. Moderate exercise, like 30 to 45 minutes of walking, jogging, or cycling per day can help ward off sickness, TIME notes. Working out when you’re experiencing symptoms, however, is a different story.
“When you’re sick, your symptoms should really dictate whether or not you work out,” Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, a Harvard and Yale-trained ER doctor and author of Mom Hacks, tells Bustle via email. “If you’re feeling mainly symptoms ‘from the neck up,’ like nasal congestion/runny nose or a sore throat, a workout can be helpful — just take it easy.”
Dr. Gillespie also suggests that a mild workout like an easy jog or bike ride can help clear up symptoms. But intense workouts should be avoided, especially in extreme heat or cold. Dr. Gillespie says, “if your symptoms are ‘from the shoulders down,’ such as shortness of breath, abdominal pain, or nausea/vomiting, it’s a good idea to take the day off and rest.” Dr. Gillespie also recommends skipping your workout if you have full body symptoms like a fever or body aches.
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Popular Science says that, in general, exercising when you’re body is fighting a bug won’t compromise your immune system. Dr. Bruce Barrett of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health told Popular Science that up to 20 percent of flu infections don’t show any symptoms, so if you stay active regularly, you’ve probably worked out while your body was fighting off an illness at some point. “Up to half of rhinovirus infections are asymptomatic, so you never feel sick,” Dr. Barrett noted. So, while getting a workout in while you’re fighting off a cold probably won’t interfere with your immune system, exercising when you’re actively sick can be a little tricky, TIME reports.
Dr. Purvi Parikh, allergist/immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, tells Bustle via email that exercise is off limits if you have chest congestion or a persistent cough, or any kind of respiratory infection that makes it difficult to breathe deeply. “It is generally not a good idea to work out when you’re sick … and intense workouts may prolong illness,” Dr. Parikh says. She further says that “You absolutely should not work out if your illness includes any breathing symptoms … working out with respiratory symptoms can be dangerous.”
Also, bear in mind that working out at the gym when you’re sick means that you might spread your illness, so it’s probably best to stay home until your symptoms have cleared up. And if you have the flu in particular, experts strongly advise staying home until you’re better to avoid spreading the highly contagious virus, Healthline further notes.
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Dr. Clare Rock, MBBCh, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Associate Hospital Epidemiologist at the John Hopkins Hospital, tells Bustle via email that it’s good to remember that, if you just have a very mild cold (and nothing more serious) and you decide to workout, “Proper cough and sneeze etiquette is very important” wherever you’re working out. “Have tissues to cough or sneeze into, and dispose of them straight after use.” Dr. Rock further suggests that frequent hand washing is important, as is wiping down all your fitness equipment with a disinfectant wipe after use, so that you don’t potentially spread germs.
So, when is it OK to get back to your workouts once you’re feeling well again after a major bout of seasonal sickness? Healthline says that it’s important to make a full recovery before hitting the weights or your yoga class if you have the flu, or any other symptoms that making working out a bad idea. As your symptoms begin to subside, you can slowly start reintroducing more activity into your routine, as long as you’re careful not to push too hard.
Once you’re ready to start working out again, start with shorter, low-intensity workouts, while making sure to stay hydrated, and gradually add to your workouts over time as you continue to recover. And if you’ve been under the care of a doctor, make sure to listen to your body, and check in with your healthcare provider before getting back up to speed.
If you have a regular exercise routine, you might feel guilty skipping your workout when you’re sick. But even if you felt well enough to go to work, taking a rest day could be the best thing for your health.
Listen to your body when you’re deciding if a workout is worth it, says Albert Ahn, MD, clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. If you’ve got a minor cold and your symptoms are from the neck up, you can probably handle light exercise. Some people even find they feel better with physical activity. Though the reason isn’t clear, it could have to do with the endorphin rush or sticking with a routine, he says.
The exception to the neck-up rule? If a cough or stuffy nose makes it hard to breathe, says Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, RDN, a doctor of clinical nutrition, registered dietitian nutritionist, and exercise physiologist in Red Bank, New Jersey. “We need oxygen to exercise properly,” she says. “If oxygen is a little challenging because the lungs are filled up with fluid, maybe you shouldn’t work out.” (Find out why you’re always congested.)
Take it easy, too, if you’ve had stomach issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, even you think you’re done running to the toilet. “They’re already dehydrating to begin with, and the last thing you want to do is make that worse,” says Dr. Ahn. In addition to water, you also lose electrolytes—which are important for performance—so replenish them with sports drinks or coconut water. (Check out these other sneaky causes of dehydration.) Plus, if being sick made you lose your appetite, you won’t have enough calories to fuel your workout, he says.
Exercising with a fever is another big no-no. “You don’t want to raise your body temperature any more,” says Dr. Ahn. (Here are 12 Times You Should Absolutely Skip Your Workout.)
Then, of course, there are the germs. For one thing, you should avoid making other gym-goers sick. But staying home could protect you, as well. “You don’t want to be around other people’s germs when immunocompromised,” says Dr. Stoler. If you do brave the gym, she recommends washing your hands when you arrive and when you leave. Avoid putting your hands in your eyes and nose until you’ve washed the germs away.
Don’t rely on getting an immune system boost from your workout either. Research, including a review of studies published in 2019 in Journal of Sport and Health Science, show the positive effect of exercise on the immune system, but that won’t make a difference once you’re sick. After all, your regular exercise routine has likely already given you those benefits, says Dr. Ahn. Now it’s time to let your body fight the infection and avoid these habits that ruin your immune system.
Fitness fanatics who do decide to work out should dial it down a notch. Reduce the speed and number of miles on the treadmill, and do fewer sets and reps during weight training, says Dr. Ahn. Or rethink your idea of physical activity and do tai chi, yoga, or light cardio, suggests Dr. Stoler. “It’s moving vs. sitting on a sofa,” she says. “We can always walk.”
Don’t feel guilty about the time away from the gym. A few days off won’t kill your progress, and working out too soon will probably just hold you back more in the long run. “It’s not going to help your cold go away any faster,” says Dr. Ahn. So sit back and enjoy the excuse to stay in your PJs.
What Really Happens When You Work Out When You’re Sick
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How can you boost immune system with your diet and hydration?
A recovery smoothie won’t be enough. You’ll need nutrients that will boost your workout recovery, as well as those nutrients that have been shown to help with immune support. While science seems to flip and flop whether vitamin C can prevent colds, meeting all your daily nutrient needs is the way to go. Same with drinking water.
The nutrition expert says: “Often, the supplements you’d take for workout recovery also help with sickness recovery,” says Latinsky, who is a spokesperson for Jamieson. “Amp up your vitamin C intake to the 1,000 to 2,000 milligram range each day, because vitamin C, as well as zinc and vitamin D, support a healthy immune system. Echinacea is great for enabling the body to fight off viral and bacterial invaders. Also consider ginger because, while we know it helps with nausea and upset stomach, it can also help naturally manage coughs.”
The fitness expert says: “Staying hydrated doesn’t have to mean just drinking more water,” says Bishop. “It may be easier to drink hot tea or chicken soup, especially if you are sick. Hot liquids may also help loosen congestion. Steam inhalation using a large bowl of hot water may also help. Some people like to add essential oils, such as eucalyptus, which has an antimicrobial effect. Also consider using a humidifier in the fall and winter, when the air starts to lose humidity.” And if you do work out with “neck up” symptoms, make sure you drink water – more than you would if you weren’t sick.
Stop feeling rundown and eat these foods that fight colds.
How long should you rest?
You have a fever and body aches. How long should you rest before returning to your regular exercise routine? Again, it depends. If you have a cold, you should be feeling better within a week. Other sicknesses like bronchitis or a sinus infection can last two weeks, maybe longer if left untreated. The best course of action usually means holding off while you have below-the-neck symptoms, then easing back into your regular exercise routine as you start to feel relief.
Exercising while you’re sick
Just because your symptoms are concentrated above the neck doesn’t mean you need to exercise. If you try to work out while you’re sick with a cold and find it’s killing you, slow down! Taking a few days off from your regular exercise won’t ruin all of the progress you’ve made. You can even exercise regularly but bring down your intensity. So instead of running five miles like you normally do, walk one or two. Similarly, think about doing a yoga class instead of your regular HIIT class.
Think about skipping the gym
When you’re sick and decide to continue exercising, you may want to skip the gym. Whenever you’re sick, there’s a period of time when you’re contagious. Instead, exercise at home or outdoors. A gym is an easy place to spread germs, so if you do decide to go, be considerate of others. Wash your hands before going, cough into your sleeve, throw used tissues in the trash, and wipe down machines after you use them.
Making the decision to exercise while you’re sick doesn’t have to be difficult. By evaluating your sickness and using the above-the-neck rule, you can take care of your body in the best way possible. Talk to your doctor if you want more information on exercising while you’re sick.
Should I Work Out When I’m Sick?
When you’re feeling under the weather, you may wonder: is it better to sweat it out or rest and recover? Well, it depends.
Finding the motivation to complete a workout is one thing—but other times, pushing yourself through a brisk run or power through a yoga class when you’re sick can hurt your body more than help. We talked to medical experts and professional trainers to find out whether you should work out when sick.
If you have a simple cold or cough . . . scale back on the intensity.
According to Dr. Alison Mitzner, if you have a minor cold, it’s okay to work out. “Often, you will feel better with mild exercise and it also boosts your immunity,” she continues. “People who are used to exercise and work out frequently usually feel better with exercise rather than stopping. You may just need to decrease the intensity a bit. You know your body best, so just don’t push it.”
Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham suggests strength exercises for those facing upper respiratory infections, since cardio will feel much harder. Fellow Aaptiv trainers, Jennifer Giamo and Jessica Muenster, agree. If you’ve got a sore throat or sinus pressure, consider a light-to-moderate workout to help ease symptoms, release bodily toxins, or break up congestion. And if you’ve got a runny rose, don’t skip your workout, but scale back and treat it more like an active recovery day.
That said, always give yourself permission to take a break. “Rest is very important when you’re struggling with a cold,” says Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase. “Your immune system is compromised and therefore does not need the stress from high-energy workouts. However, a gentle workout such as a walk or even restorative yoga may be good during this time because it’s giving your body the energy it needs to heal.”
If you have a fever or the flu . . . skip the workout.
“The best advice is to not work out if your symptoms occur below the neck. This means not working out with a fever since you don’t want to increase your body temperature even further,” explains Jasmine Marcus, PT DPT. She’s right, and the so-called “neck check” is based on a study about exercising while ill.
Cunningham also recommends skipping exercise if you’re running a fever. That said, don’t assume the lack of a fever gives you the green light to work out when sick. “ Depending on what’s wrong, running outside in the cold or doing something to aggravate your immune system or make it fight harder may only set you back,” she notes. “Always consult your doctor if you have questions but never beat yourself up for taking a rest day if you don’t feel well. Listening to your body is key.”
“If you have a fever and/or the chills, it is always a good idea to rest and not work out until fully recovered,” says Ehsan Ali, MD. When your body has the flu, it’ll take three to five days for symptoms (such as chills, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting) to taper off. Do not exercise until you’re feeling better and you’ve been fever free for at least 24 hours.
“There are two main reasons I typically will not work out: when I’m fighting a serious cold or the flu,” says Muenster. “That’s because you’re spreading germs and then creating an environment to make others sick. Second, your body needs to focus on healing itself. If you are working out, then you’re using energy for exercise and your body cannot focus directly on healing.”
If you have aches and pains . . . listen to your body.
Giamo usually tells clients to try a workout, and if they start feeling bad after 15-20 minutes, then call it quits. In any workout, you’ll experience some discomfort associated with muscles being activated, but notice things like being unable to catch your breath or wheezing, as these are additional signs to stop what you’re doing.
“If you’re feeling fatigued or excessively tired, it’s better not to work out when sick,” says Dr. Ali. “Save your energy to allow for your body to feel better and recover.”
“Decide if you’re up for exercising, or would feel more comfortable reserving your energy,” offers Dr. Marcus. “Often times after resting for a few days when sick, people will realize they missed working out and will come back more determined than before.”
If your body is up for it, Aaptiv has workouts that can go easy or hard depending how you’re feeling. .
The Best Way to Start Exercising Again After Being Sick
A winter cold, flu, or virus can throw a serious wrench in your normally fit routine, leaving you bedridden and (eventually) craving a good sweat. (Next time, try these tips to fight cold and flu germs the right way.)
But how do you get back on the bandwagon after an illness passes? How big of a setback did you really take? And how much exercise is too much when you’re first getting back at it? We touched base with Michele Olson, PhD, a professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery to find out.
Things might not be as bad as you think: If you’re flat on your back for a week-assuming you stick to a regular gym routine when you’re healthy-you’ll lose about 30 percent of your fitness, especially your cardio output, says Olson. While this is a bummer, with two to three weeks of training-using the right bounce-back strategy-you should be close to your normal physical fitness again, she says.
So how can you tell if you’re OK to hit the pavement? First and foremost, make sure you haven’t had a fever for at least 48 hours, says Olson, who adds that you should also have a few good night’s sleep under your belt, and no longer have any aches and pains.
“If you’re running a fever, you should not work out,” Olson notes. “The energy needed by your immune system to fight off bacterial infections will be compromised if you exercise.” And this means you’ll invite lingering symptoms to worsen-which could predispose you to more intense issues like mononucleosis or pneumonia, she says. (Not fun.)
So if you truly think you’re in the clear, it’s important to ease back into your regular routine. “When you’ve had an infection, the increased work of your immune system is taxing on the body,” says Olson. Overwhelm an already over-worked bod and you’ll wind up right back in the sack.
As for where to start, Olson suggests light cardio then resistance training. “It’s important to make sure your oxygen delivery system is intact so that when you do resistance training, your muscles will get the oxygen,” she says. But if you’re a yogi (and your body is familiar with the practice), you should be OK returning to the studio with a light class, since the exercise is less demanding and often moves at a moderate cardio pace, she adds. (Try these 5 Yoga Moves to Beat the Flu!)
The bottom line: Don’t naively assume you can go back to 100 percent right away. “Do about 70 percent of what you were doing,” suggests Olson. Reducing your weights and cardio output by 30 percent for a few days will make up for the loss in fitness while you were sick. So build back slowly, even if you’re tempted to push harder. Don’t worry, eventually, two miles won’t feel like 10 anymore.