Working Out When Sick

Should I Work Out When I’m Sick?

With cold and flu season hitting hard, “should I work out when I’m sick?” is a common question that fitness professionals hear often and one that has a lot of myths around it. Some people will believe that they can “sweat it out” and shorten the duration of a cold with a good bout of exercise. Some scientific evidence suggests that moderate intensity exercise can reduce inflammation and improve the immune response to respiratory viral infections. Unfortunately it’s just not as easy as “sweating it out”.

The answer centers around what exercise does to your immune response. With exercise comes recovery, and if your body is trying to battle and recover from a cold, exercising and giving your body something else to recover from isn’t always the right path to take.

Let’s consider what happens when you’re sick and you try to work out.

Prolonged or intense exercise suppresses your immune system, while moderate intensity exercise can improve immune function and may reduce the risk and severity of respiratory viral infections whether the infection is present or not present at the time of exercise. So what does this mean? If you’re sick, don’t do anything intense for your workout as it will actually get in the way of your recovery and may even reduce the function of your immune system. Mild exercise is actually okay, but you need to wait to return to intense exercise until after your symptoms resolve. Your symptoms also carry some weight in the decision. It makes a difference if you have a head cold, chest cold, flu etc. As a rule, exercise is contraindicated if you have a viral infection that causes symptoms throughout the body. See the handy chart below…

As always, please do not self-diagnose or attempt to self-treat. Please seek out the help of a medical professional before deciding to modify your activity beyond resting while you’re sick. When in doubt, rest your body! It will thank you for it in the long run.

Remember, we are here to help you succeed. See you on the workout floor! #YGOALS

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