Should I Exercise When I’m Sick and How to Come Back.

It seems as though the flu and colds have hit quite hard this year and I thought we’d cover a few tips on whether or not to exercise while sick and how to get back on track!  First of all we always recommend that people seek a medical professional for any questions regarding illnesses and also take a few days off at the peak of the sickness for both your sake and that of others around you.  You’re generally most contagious during the first 48 hours of a cold so best to stay at home!  If you’re sick and choose to still exercise make sure you sanitize all of your equipment after you train to prevent others from getting sick.

So here’s a way of determining whether to workout or not while sick, do the neck check:

1) If the symptoms are above the neck: like a runny  nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, or congestion then keep going!

You may need to keep the workouts lighter but exercise can give you more energy when you’re feeling sluggish and it also serves as a momentary decongestant.  Think slower more gentle exercises like a brisk walk, biking, yoga, and strength training as alternatives to high intensity workouts when you are sick.

2) If the symptoms are below the neck: like body aches, chills, stomach pain or diarrhea, then it is best to stay away until you fully recover.

These are pretty tell tale signs that the illness is a little more serious than just a simple cold.  It’s best to drop by and visit a doctor during this time and really focus on getting well.   If we push too hard when we are severely ill it might worsen the condition or increase the amount of time it takes to recover.  Usually a 48 hour period is good enough to recover but listen to your body.

If you’re looking at getting back into a routine after getting sick the best tip is to go back slowly.  Progressively increase the intensity over a few weeks until you’ve fully recovered.  Most people are concerned that they wil lose the progress that they’ve worked on if they take a break or come back too slowly but rest assured that progress doesn’t just go flying out the window when you rest for a week.  If anything you may find that you’re stronger if you’re exercise levels have been intense for the past few months.  Hopefully you can stay healthy for the remainder of the winter but if not try these tips out.  Remember, exercise has also been proven to increase your long term immunity so it’s a great way to ensure that you have less of a chance of getting sick too.

About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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