Working Out When Sick?
We all get sick. Maybe, that’s just a part of life. And for the average person working out when sick would be a clear no-no. But you're not average. You are a fitness freak and love being in the gym every single day. In essence, getting sick for you is the absolute worst thing that can happen as it has the potential to ruin your workouts.
So now the question is what should you do? Should you be a warrior and head to the gym for a workout despite being sick? Or should you take the time to rest and recover? The answer to that question is that it depends. When you workout you are putting your body through stress. In normal circumstances your immune system would be able to easily respond to said stress and keep you going.
However, when you are sick your immune system may be somewhat suppressed and unable to deal with the stress. This is what ultimately will lead to you getting sick. Whether or not you should exercise will depend on the symptoms you are experiencing and how long you have been experiencing them.
We will discuss some of the symptoms you should watch out for below.
Here is How Exercise Can Affect Your Immune System
When you exercise vigorously for an extended period of time you become more susceptible to infection. The best example of this is with marathon runners. After running a marathon your immune system may be depressed for up to 3 days. This is why endurance athletes will often get sick in the immediate aftermath of a marathon. On the other hand, a brief vigorous workout doesn’t have the same effect on your immune system. As a matter of fact, a brief vigorous workout can actually give your immune system a boost, which by the way is something you would need when you are sick.
Other Factors That Can Affect Your Immune System
Your age, gender, sleep patterns, climate you workout in, mood, obesity, altitude, and the amount of time you have been training can all affect your immune system. For instance, if you have been training for several years your body is now used to the stress you put it under on a regular basis. As a result, your immune system won’t be affected as easily as it would with someone who isn’t used to working out.
5 Reasons You Should Not Working Out When Sick
With that being said, there are specific instances when you should avoid heading to the gym as doing so could cause more harm than good.
Reason #1 – You Have a Fever
If you have a fever stay home and rest. When you have a fever it usually means your body is trying to fight off an infection. Going to the gym will only make matters worse by putting your immune system under even more stress.
Reason #2 – You Can’t Stop Coughing
If you are constantly coughing and nasty stuff is coming up, please stay home. A severe cough makes it hard to breath which means you will find it very difficult to get through a workout. You may be able to do some light stretching, but don’t do much more than that.
Reason #3 – You Have No Energy
When you get sick it can often drain you of all your energy. If you don’t have enough energy to get through a workout, don’t force yourself. Going to the gym when you are sick and your energy is in the toilet is a recipe for disaster.
Reason #4 – You Don’t Feel Like Exercising
Let’s be honest, sometimes you just don’t feel like exercising. If you are sick and don’t feel like working out, that’s okay. Most exercise enthusiasts feel guilty when they miss a workout. Don’t! Its just one day and you can get right back to it once you start feeling better. Sometimes going to the gym when you are sick can actually slow down the recovery process. So stay home and let your body rest and recover.
Reason #5 – Your Doctor Told You Not To Exercise
You know your body better than anyone else does. However, if your doctor recommends you stay away from the gym for a day or two, do it. You can argue with your doctor all you want. But when it boils down to it, you should follow the doctors orders.
What Should You Do?
If you feel healthy and your number one objective is to prevent sickness, focus on doing moderate exercise several times a week. If you are someone who enjoys doing high intensity workouts, be sure to get plenty of rest every single night. Doing so will ensure your body is able to properly recover. If you are experiencing a high level of stress, figure out a way to manage it. Often times exercise is a great way to do just that. If you don’t manage your stress you will end up getting sick as your immune system will become depressed. Always, always, always wash your hands. That is one of the easiest ways to prevent germs from spreading.
If you are already feeling a little sick and aren’t sure if you should workout or not, it is recommended you let your symptoms be your guide. If you have a cold but no fever or body aches, light exercise should be fine. Activities such as walking, yoga, swimming and T’ai chi are all great options. If at all possible you must avoid doing anything vigorous for a day or two. Activities such as endurance training, heavy lifting or power activities should be off limits until you feel better.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as vomiting, fever, joint pain, diarrhea or elevated heart rate, that’s a sign you need to get some rest. Avoid going to the gym for a few days to give your body time to recover. Once you’re feeling better you can head back to the gym. Your first day back be sure to take it easy so you won’t over-tax your body.
A Word From The Experts
Dr. John Berardi recommends getting 20 to 30 minutes of low intensity exercise even if you are feeling a little sick. Doing so could help stimulate your immune system which in turn can help you recover faster. The key is to keep your heart rate low by doing only low intensity activity. You can go outside (if of course its not too cold), and take a walk, or you can stay inside and walk on the treadmill. Even if you don’t speed up the recovery process by doing light exercise, that doesn’t mean you won’t feel better. As you know, exercise releases those feel good hormones. So even a little exercise will go a long ways towards helping you feel good.
As you can see, working out when you aren’t feeling good isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just because you catch the sniffles doesn’t mean you should pack it in and stay home. As previously stated, working out can actually help you feel better. Its all about knowing what to do and what not to do based on the symptoms you are feeling. That’s why it is so important you let your symptoms be your guide. How are you feeling? Are your symptoms so severe you feel like you won’t make it through even a low intensity workout? If so that’s a sign you need to stay home.
You won’t do yourself any good by trying to push through. Instead, you should stay home and rest. Consume plenty of vitamin C to help give your immune system the boost it needs to get you back to feeling like yourself again. Even after you are feeling better, don’t jump right back into your regular routine. Take a few days to work you way back up to what you are used to doing. For example, on your first day back try 30 to 45 minutes of light exercise.
The next day you can kick it up a notch and do between 45 and 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. On day three you should be back to yourself and ready to go. The idea is to ease back into your workout routine. If you were sick 4 days, you should take 4 days to work your way back up to your regular intensity workout. Please keep in mind some symptoms are a sign of an infection or other serious illness. If your symptoms linger around for several days and you don’t seem to be getting any better, make an appointment to see your doctor. The doctor will check you out and prescribe medication, if need be.
Once you are good to go you can get back in the gym and do your thing. Just remember to ease your way back in. Hitting it hard immediately after being sick can set you back even more. So take your time and as your body recovers you can add more intensity to your workouts.