Exercising when sick. Should you do it?


There is nothing worse than having your daily or even weekly routine interrupted by feeling sick or under the weather. Not only does your house work, professional life and family life suffer, your exercise routine is also put in jeopardy. So….

Should you exercise, or should you rest it out?

It is a question that would arise at different times during the sickness: is it wise to rest completely and give your body the time that it needs to heal? Ir is it the right thing to do to sweat it out and boost your body’s immune system through pushing yourself? Outlined below is a guide of when and how much you should push your body during sickness and the different ways to your road to recovery.

The body is constantly fighting off upper respiratory attackers and aggressors such as the common cold, influenza, tonsillitis, coughs, throat infections, sinusitis and middle ear infections and the only way the body can do so is through the immune system. It is so important to keep the immune system strong and healthy and we should be ultimately striving to do so every day, but most importantly when we are sick. The immune system is made up of specific organs within the body that reject toxins and infections. These organs are lymph nodes, thymus and bone marrow.

Moderate exercise has the amazing ability to keep the immune system strong and healthy, although it is important to remember how much exercise that you do and the intensity of the exercise should align with your general level of fitness. For most, prolonged vigorous exercise can lower the strength of the immune system for up to 72 hours, as it comes as a shock to the body. Whereas for generally active people moderate exercise will undoubtably increase your body’s immunity.

If exercising is part of your healthy daily routine, then there are many cases of sickness where you will not have to cease your habit. Many practitioners hold strong to the “above the neck” rule. If you are experiencing symptoms that are only above the neck such as runny nose, sore throat, ear ache or headache then it is probably okay to resume with your moderate exercise routine while sick, while still avoiding high-intensity workouts.

The common cold is a viral infection and has most notably an effect on the nose and throat with symptoms being a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, slight cough and a headache. Due to the mildness of the common cold’s symptoms, it is not necessary to cease your exercise routine. Although you may find that you have a lack of energy, so it wouldn’t hurt to take it down a notch. The same can be said for an ear ache, runny nose and a mild sore throat.

If you are experiencing any symptoms below the neck, such as body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or chest congestion it is wise to not engage in any exercise at all. Rest, sleep and hydration are the only factors that are going to bring you back to your normal state of health.

When you have a fever, your body is undergoing an attack by a viral or bacterial infection and so the body’s temperature will rise above its normal range. Fevers can lead to dehydration, loss of appetite, muscle aches and weakness. These reasons, along with the fact that fevers reduce precision and muscle strength, all make it clear that it is not a good idea to exercise while the body has a fever.

A stomach bug is another illness that should not be coupled with exercise. Stomach bugs are particularly painful ailments that can lead to muscle aches, stomach cramping, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea and leave you feeling very weak. Under these circumstances it is best to get as much rest as possible and get back into your exercise routine once the bug has passed. If your body is feeling restless and stiff, light stretching is the perfect way to appease those restless legs. Chest infections and the flu are also another time when exercise will do more harm than good if carried out. Choosing to exercise during the heat of a flu or chest infection will only enrage the illness and will just lengthen its duration.

When you are sick, it is best to avoid high-intensity or prolonged vigorous exercise. If you feel restless and like you want to do something active, consider long walks, light jogging, bike riding, Ta-chi or yoga. If you feel as if any kind of physical exertion is making you feel worse, cease doing any exercise at all and rest, sleep and rehydrate.

When considering heading out to the gym for a workout when you are suffering from a form of illness, remember that gyms are breading grounds for germs, both spreading and being caught. If you are thinking of heading out for exercise, choose the outdoors. Not only have you probably been cooped up inside for most of the day and some vitamin D would do you wonders, fresh air will also give you an increase in serotonin production. If you do choose to go to the gym, sanatize your hands and be sure to wipe down all equipment that you have used before and after use.

If you are feeling unwell, honestly judge your level of sickness before deciding whether to exercise or deciding what kind of exercise to undertake. Most importantly, do not push yourself if you are experiencing body aches, fever or stomach cramps. If you are experiencing above the neck symptoms, then light exercise should be more then fine to keep within your daily routine. Listen carefully to your body before deciding to hit the pavement or the gym so as not to jeopardize your road to recovery.


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