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Friday, May 31, 2013

Exercising when sick - yay or nay?

Should you exercise when sick?

I have currently been attacked by the plague (read: flu) and I had a question from a reader which sparked an idea for this post. 

The lovely Rachel asked me "When you're sick, should you exercise or do you have to forget about it all together" - and that's a more complicated question than it seems.

Should You Exercise When You're Sick?

When it's okay to exercise: 
I was once told by a doctor that, if your symptoms were "above the neck" and you felt up to it, exercising when you're a little under the weather shouldn't be a problem at all. 

"Above the neck" symptoms include:
  • Mild Headaches (personally I find going for a walk usually clears my headache)
  • Runny nose 
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Minor sore throat
The important thing to remember is to listen to your body - if you don't feel up to it, don't do it. I have walked this last couple of days, but this morning I woke up and just didn't feel right - so I didn't head out for my morning walk as per usual. Even when you're not sick - if you don't feel up to exercising, don't force yourself!

Reduce the Intensity and Length of Your Workout
When you're not feeling well, you should reduce the intensity and length of your workout - try a brisk walk or some yoga rather than running on the treadmill or lifting weights which is going to raise your heartrate and body temperature and potentially make you feel worse. 

Listen to Your Body - and Don't Feel Guilty!
Remember that by listening to your body, you're doing the right thing - so don't feel guilty for a second. It's better to get better sooner and you can get back to doing the exercise you enjoy rather than forcing your body and making it take longer to recover.

When you should not exercise: 
  • When you have a fever
    It's really important that if you have a fever you don't exercise. This is because exercising raises your body temperature, which can make you even sicker if you already have a fever.
  • When you don't feel up to it 
    Don't force yourself to exercise "just because" - a few days off to let your body rest and recover really isn't going to do you any damage - in fact, it will do the opposite 
  • If your symptoms are below the next
    "Below the neck" symptoms include: coughing, body aches, fever, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, gastrointestinal upset, chest congestion, stomach cramps.
When you are exercising and you start to feel tired or unwell - stop! Don't force yourself to do what you normally do when you're sick as your body is screaming at you that enough is enough. 

As a general rule: 
Listen to your body - you should know in yourself whether you feel up to it or not. When you're sick (or anytime really) you shouldn't force yourself to do anything you don't feel up to. Take some time to rest, relax and recover and hopefully you'll be on the mend very soon!

Also be mindful that when you're sick, you should reduce the intensity and length of your workout as you're not going to be performing as you usually do. Switch your run for a walk or your weights for a yoga session - and if in the middle of your workout you start to feel worse or get tired, STOP!

So tell me, when you're feeling under the weather, do you skip your workout altogether, or try something different?

If I'm feeling okay, I stick to a slower walk than usual which usually clears my sinuses and helps me to feel better for the rest of the day - but if I wake up tired, achey or just generally feeling unwell, I know better than to force myself. 

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  1. Yesss, I definitely agree with all of your points, Kristy! When I get really sick I try to squeeze in something even if it's for a few minutes, but ONLY if I know I'm not in a lot of pain or discomfort. I think it's instinctive and most of us know when it's okay and when it's not. Taking walks, jogging for a few minutes, cranking out a few good pushups, etc., are all good ways to "un-stale" our bodies when we're sick, but we need to listen to our bodies. :)

    1. You're right, it's definitely instinctive - the only one who really knows what we're capable of is ourselves!

  2. I too have the plague! Woo hoo... I think for me, when I'm sick I NEED to rest. I just end up feeling 10 times worse if I don't, and I want a speedy recovery! I say I rest, but both jobs I do are quite physical, so working and that's about it.

    1. Oh no! :(

      Hugeeeee kudos to you for listening to your body! Sometimes all we need is rest - and it's so important to get that rest!

      Take it easy, lovely! Sending get well soon vibes your way! ;P

  3. This is perfect!!! You describe it exactly as it should be! I always tell clients the exact same thing! And it's funny because I woke up feeling a little under the weather today and told myself that I could could to the gym, decrease my intensity and enjoy a more easy going workout since I was just a bit stuffy! Thanks for sharing this! :)


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