Exercise: In Sickness and in Health?
Engaging in regular exercise is an excellent way to keep your body healthy and your immune system running on all cylinders. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of many types of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and more. In addition, exercise helps keep reduce stress, anxiety, and depression- which could also lead to a decreased risk of developing a chronic disease.
Since exercise is such a powerful tool to use to improve overall wellness it may seem like there is never a bad moment to exercise. However, there are moments when sickness (especially right now!) can leave us feeling sidelined. Should you push past sickness and keep working out? Or, will that hinder your recovery? The answers aren’t completely black and white.
There are actually moments where you may have symptoms associated with the common cold (think: nasal congestion, sore throat, and headache/earache) that most physicians deem safe to workout with. Keep in mind that since your body is still fighting a bug, no matter how small, you may want to reduce the intensity and/or duration of your normal workouts.
Additional symptoms like fever, persistent coughing, fatigue, any GI-related symptoms, etc. are considered red flags and not safe to workout with. These symptoms need to subside before continuing an exercise routine.
If you are a regular gym-goer, please err further on the side of caution with any new-onset symptoms (even mild colds) and stay home to exercise or move your workout outside, away from others. What may feel like a mild cold to you could become a major illness for someone else.
It’s important that if you find your return to exercise difficult not to stress about it. While some people worry that a few days off from their exercise routine will set them back and cause a loss of muscle and strength, that’s not the case. Many studies show that for most people, muscle loss begins after approximately three weeks without training, while strength starts to decline around the 10-day mark.
The best thing to consider before working out while you’re sick, or considering when to return to exercise after being sick, is how your body feels. Start out slow and take longer breaks to assess and make adjustments as needed.
Also, make sure you’re staying well hydrated and eating plenty of nutritious food, especially before and after your workouts to further fuel your recovery.
The final word? When experiencing symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, fever, and/or a productive and/or persistent cough, it’s best to rest your body and take some time off from your regular workouts until you fully recover.
However, if you caught a mild cold or are experiencing some nasal congestion, there’s no need to throw in the towel completely on your workout plan.
If you're feeling up to exercise, but lack your usual energy, reducing the intensity and/or duration of your workout is a great way to stay active.
No matter what type of illness, it’s important to stay away from others and out of gyms while exercising until symptoms have completely subsided and you have been cleared by your doctor to return safely.