Should You Exercise When You Are Sick?

Recently my friends and I were planning on biking several miles through a rugged mountain trail, when all of a sudden one of them started to feel abnormal. They had the sniffles, low energy, and a mild headache. The first question I got was, “should you exercise when you are sick?”. As I was helping my friend decide whether to stay behind or not, I realized that I should help you with this dilemma too.

When you’re sick, trying to figure out if a workout is productive or not can be tough. On one hand you don’t want to fall out of your daily routine by not doing anything at all. On the other hand you don’t want to make it worse and then be forced to sit out for even longer. Here is some tips on prevention, what to expect when you’re sick, and how to make an executive decision.

First of all, prevention is the number one priority. If you keep your immune system strong you will find yourself in this situation much less frequently. The number one way to prevent sickness is washing your hands. Wash them after touching anything that other people have possibly handled. A personal bottle of hand sanitizer is not a bad idea to carry around with you in your car or gym bag. Getting enough sleep, good nutrition, and not overtraining are also steps to keeping yourself healthy.

feeling sick

If something does sneak past your immune system, and you do start feeling ill, then there are a few things to consider in regards to physical activity. The most popular way to decide if it’s safe or not is called the “neck check”. For instance, if your symptoms are above the neck then you are probably ok to workout. Symptoms in this category include sore throat, headache, congestion, and sneezing. If the symptoms are below your neck than you should probably be a lot more careful. These symptoms include fever, body shivers, body aches, deep cough, etc. Some sources suggest that if you have a fever over 101 degrees you should not do physical activity at all. The danger is in raising your body temperature even higher than it already is. You could possibly make your situation even worse.

I am a firm believer that some physical activity is not bad in most situations. You have to listen to your body though. You are the one that is sick, so only you know what you are capable of. Another rule of thumb is, only do what you can do. If you think your body can’t handle a certain workout or intensity, then simply don’t do it. Most of the time working out at a lower intensity than normal can actually make you feel a little better. It will open up your nasal passages, get your circulatory system moving faster, and jumpstart your immune system.

Studies have shown that 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 to 4 times a week keep your immune system going strong. Also keeping your blood and lymph fluid circulating through your body will help your immune cells find any foreign invaders faster. If you are just laying around your blood and lymph fluid don’t circulate as fast.

sick at the gym

If you are too sick to exercise than the next preventative measure is to make sure it doesn’t throw you out of your rhythm. To keep your mindset ready to go when you do feel better, do some meditation and see yourself going hard in the gym. You can also do light static stretching in the shower or while you’re watching TV. Stretching will help keep your achy body loose. View that as your workout for the day. That way your mindset should be that you didn’t miss a day while you were sick, so you can jump right back into the routine when you’re feeling better.

At the end of the day I helped my friend decide that the bike ride may actually be good for her if she just went at a less intense pace than the rest of us. We all had a great time, and she ended up feeling 100% normal after our biking trail adventure. If you find this article helpful, then please share it with others on facebook. If you’re interested, check out 12 Unbelievable Health Advantages Of Lemons and 10 Reasons Why Water Is The Ultimate Health Booster to find out how to keep your body as healthy as possible.

Adam Pegg About Adam Pegg

Adam is an athlete with a serious passion for fitness and health. He played basketball at University of Delaware and Stetson. His degree is in health science and he's a certified personal trainer who loves helping people reach their goals.