Flu season is here. I always get sick in December, and I’m slow to get back into a healthy routine when I feel better. Besides feeling like doo-doo, getting sick can really throw off my diet and fitness goals. Knowing this, I sometimes wonder if working out while sick is a good idea so that I stick to my good habits.
I decided to do some research on the topic, and I found it is really a judgement call and depends on your symptoms. Sometimes working out while sick can help you feel better, but other times it can actually put too much pressure on your body and make your recovery time longer.
The rule of thumb for working out while sick is called the above/below-the-neck rule.
If your symptoms appear above the neck (runny nose, sneezing, sore throat), then yes, you can continue with a moderate- to low-intensity workout. Since I like to stay in a healthy routine, I would use a Pilates, Stretch, or Core DVD. I always workout at home, but even if you’re a gym bunny, still consider a DVD. Not only will it allow you to stay home and relax, but it also helps keep germs out of the gym.
If your symptoms are below the neck (diarrhea, intense coughing, vomiting, fever), then the American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests you let your illness run its course before resuming your workout. If you work out when you have these intense symptoms, you risk your health and increase your chances of an injury due to a workout.
What if you skip working out while sick?
Your results will not disappear in the few days you are sick. For me, the mental aspect of skipping a few workouts is far more intense than the changes in my body. Diet is 70-80% of fitness results from any workout even when you are healthy. Therefore, if you are concerned about losing muscle definition or gaining weight, make sure you are eating well. Getting the proper nutrition will not only help you keep your results, it will help your body fight off whatever illness it has.
Other Things to Remember While Sick:
- Your body is talking to you! Feeling stressed or overtraining can lead to illness. “Mind over matter” goes both ways–You need to listen to your body and set realistic goals.
- Stay hydrated. Only drink Sprite and juices in moderation. While each holds some logical reasoning of why people recommend them, your body also needs good ol’ fashioned water! Water will help flush out the toxins that have made you sick in the first place.
- If you do workout, remember to take it easy. High-intensity workouts have been shown to make you feel worse and create setbacks! YUCK! Stick to moderate- to low- intensity workouts to keep your routine without potentially harming your health.
- If you workout at the gym, be courteous! Hand sanitizer and keeping a clean exercise space is vital and will much very appreciated! Also, you can always look into a workout DVD or Youtube a workout while you’re sick.
- Working out while having below the neck symptoms or running a temperature can make you feel worse. The reason is as you exercise your body temperature rises. If you have a temperature over 101 degrees let your body rest and fight the infection.
- In less than 2 weeks, you will be feeling like yourself again! Studies show a typical cold lasts about 7 days while the flu lasts around 10-14 days.
One more bit of good news:
Exercisers in general tend to catch fewer colds than their sedentary counterparts, research suggests. If done regularly, moderate exercise can halve the number of days you spend with cold symptoms. — CNN