Should You Keep Working Out While Sick?

Regular exercise helps keep you healthy, but there are times when you may have to take a break. You just cannot avoid getting sick occasionally–an average adult has at least two respiratory infections a year. Some people believe you should continue with your workout even when you are not feeling at your best, while others are of the view that you should take a break completely. What should you do? What is the right thing to do? Let's find out now.

Should You Keep Working Out While Sick?

A simple way to determine if you should continue your exercise is the "neck check". It implies that you can continue with your workout if your symptoms are above the neck, such as a sore throat, a runny nose, etc. You should listen to your body and avoid exercising if your symptoms are below the neck and you have muscle aches and fatigue. However, you should not take a chance though when you are struggling with chest congestion or have a fever. 

Experts are of the view that you can continue with mild to moderate physical activity when you do not have a fever and the symptoms are above the neck. In fact, you may feel better after physical exercise because it helps open your nasal passages and temporarily relieves you from nasal congestion. Here is more about what to do under three common circumstances.

Should You Work Out While Having a Cold?

Do not skip a workout just because you have a runny nose. Just ensure that you do not go for strenuous workout because a cold will lead to restless nights that in turn will stunt muscle strength. You may want to avoid going to the gym though because a cold is usually contagious up to five days, so avoid hitting the gym and continue with some physical activities at home.

Should You Work Out While Having a Stomach Bug?

It is better to skip your workout when you have a stomach bug with vomiting and diarrhea. It can lead to severe dehydration and exercising in this situation will exacerbate fluid loss. This may lead to a rapid heartbeat, dry skin, and other dehydration complications. The norovirus is usually the cause of the stomach flu and it is quite contagious too, which is another reason why it makes sense to take a break from gym.

Should You Exercise When Having a Fever or Flu?

Avoid it! Simply take your medicines and give your body rest to recover quickly. Workout out with fever may lead to severe dehydration. Moreover, high temperatures can cause heart damage and working out in this situation increases your risk of myocarditis, which can cause heart dysfunction. You can start again once your fever is gone for at least 24 hours–this is after you stop taking fever-reducing medications. It may take up to five days to feel better after the flu. There may be a loss of muscle mass when you start again after bed rest, but this will save you from serious complications that would arise from working out while sick.

How to Tell If You Can Work Out While Sick

Here is how to proceed when you have an illness and do not know if you should continue with your workout.

  • Day 1 of illness: Stick to low intensity workout when you have symptoms like coughing, sore throat, congested nose, and runny nose, but avoid exercise completely when you have headache, malaise, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Day 2 of illness: Avoid any exercise if you have a fever greater than 37.5C with vomiting, diarrhea, and coughing, but you can have light physical exercise with no fever or worsening of above-the-neck symptoms.
  • Day 3 of illness: Talk to your doctor if you are still experiencing the symptoms, but you can start moderate intensity training when there is no fever. Stay indoors though and never let your pulse go above 150 bpm.
  • Day 4 of illness: Do not exercise if symptoms are still present and go to see your doctor if new symptoms appear. 

Best Exercises to Do While Sick

You now understand that working out while sick is not always a great idea, but you can exercise in certain situations. Still, you need to know about exercises that are safe to do when you are sick. For instance:

  • Walking: A 20-minute walk will help keep you maintain a right frame of mind when you have a cold and low energy levels. You may even notice some relief as well. Walking is a good idea when you have clogged sinuses because it encourages you to take deep breaths, which help keep those passages open.
  • Jogging: You do not have to skip jogging due to a mild head cold, especially if you jog quite regularly. Running may help you feel better and even work as a natural decongestant. It is a good idea to scale back the intensity though to give your body with some resources to fight off infection.
  • Qi Gong: This low-intensity movement will help make you feel better without having to break a serious sweat. It also improves blood circulation, reduces anxiety, relieves stress, and increases energy. It also helps boost your immunity and triggers recovery.
  • Yoga: While fighting the common cold and similar infections, your body releases the stress hormone called cortisol that can make you tired and fatigued. Yoga is one perfect way to relieve stress in this situation. You may even find benefits of gentle stretching. Be sure to stick to a slower style of practice like lyengar yoga or hatha yoga. Try some restorative postures like Legs Up the Wall and Child's Pose to feel better.
  • Swimming and biking: Biking and swimming are forms of moderate cardiovascular exercises and work great to clear congestion and boost energy levels. They may not be for everyone though. It comes down to personal preferences. Many people find swimming quite refreshing and believe that it helps them breathe while congested, but others do not think the same. See what works right for you.

Sticking to these activities will help you stay in shape even when you are sick, but you should avoid endurance running, team sports, and lifting weights.

What to Do If You Cannot Work Out While Sick

In some cases, you need to take complete bed rest to provide your body with time and resources to recover. You may feel anxious to continue with your exercise routine, but it is better to resist the temptation of working out while sick. Instead, you can focus on other things, like revisiting your goals and reviewing your progress. You may also decide on what changes you would make once you return to the gym. Making a plan now will help you manage things better.

When you do return to the gym, ask one of your friends to join you, which will help keep you motivated. Still, it is important that you do not go all-out after your return. Do not ignore what your body says. You may start to feel better after 7-10 days of having a cold, but it may take up to three weeks to be at your best. Therefore, it is a good idea to start at 75% of your normal workout and increase intensity gradually over the week. 

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