Working Out When Sick: Yes or No?
Whether it’s coughs and sniffles or body aches and chills, when you feel a bug coming on, the gym might not sound like such a great idea. Your bed, a heating pad and a cup of hot tea are likely more appealing—and for good reason. Being sick means your body isn’t functioning the way it should, and working out when sick risks introducing even more stress to your system.
But if the idea of sitting it out for a few days doesn’t work for you, never fear—sickness doesn’t necessarily mean being sidelined. Here are five things to consider when deciding whether a trip to the gym is in your near future.
- Do the neck check. If your symptoms are contained to above your neck, it’s probably fine to squeeze in a workout. What does “above the neck” mean? Think about symptoms you’d experience with a light to moderate cold—a runny nose, sneezing, a cough—that doesn’t affect your chest or lungs. If you have chills, a fever, nausea or body aches, though, take a break and give your body much-needed rest. Trying to “push through” will likely prolong recovery and exacerbate your symptoms.
- Consider a less intense workout. If your symptoms are conducive to exercise, view it as a great opportunity to test drive a less-demanding version of your usual workout. Love doing interval sprints on the treadmill? Try out the rowing machine or recumbent bike. Or, if you like lifting heavy weights, drop the pounds and do a few more reps to cut down on bodily stress.
- Minimize contact with germs. If you do decide to head to the gym, remember that it’s not exactly a germ-free place—which isn’t great for a stressed immune system. Wipe down equipment before using it, especially free weights and weight machines, which other people handle all day, every day. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and skin while you’re there, and make sure to wash your hands with soap when you’re finished.
- Stay hydrated (no, really). You hear it all the time, but when you’re sick, hydration is even more important — especially if you decide to exercise, which will cause you to lose water through sweat. Remember, too, that while water is best, several other liquids can aid your recovery. Herbal tea, broth, coconut water (which is packed with potassium) and even vitamin C-packed juice are solid options to keep hydration up.
- Listen to your body. Like many issues relating to health and fitness, whether to work out when sick isn’t cut and dry. The best thing you can do is simply listen to your body. If you think you’d benefit from rest, then rest. The gym will always be there, and your workout will be stronger and more beneficial when you’re feeling your best.
Remember, too, that exercise boosts immunity — so when you’ve recovered, get back at it, and enjoy the feeling of health.
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