With the flu season right around the corner, many of you may be asking yourselves if it is healthy and safe to continue working out while sick. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that working out regularly helps boost our immune systems (Heid, 2018). Our immune systems need activity to stress them so they can practice keeping us healthy. So, you guys are already off to a great start!
However, when you are plagued with a sickness, how do you know when trying to “sweat it out” is unsafe? Multiple sources indicate that doctors prescribe an “above the neck rule” – if your symptoms are above the neck and include things like sore throat, nasal congestion or sneezing, and tearing eyes, it is typically alright to exercise. However, if your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, nausea, fever and general fatigue, you need to let your body rest (Andrews, n.d.; Kubala, 2018; Mann, n.d.)
Yes…I said let your body REST. I know that may be difficult for some of you, but you will thank yourself in the long run. When you have the flu or a fever-causing infection, your immune system is working overtime to fight that infection. Add working out on top of that, and your immune system has no time to recover – therefore you are only prolonging your symptoms. Studies have even found that individuals who continue to exercise while suffering from the flu or fever-causing infections can develop a form of chronic fatigue syndrome that can stick around for several years in some cases (Heid, 2018).
Now, let’s say that you have an above-the-neck sickness – does that mean you should attempt a vigorous or intense workout like Fran or Murph? Not necessarily. If your energy levels are depleted, think about modifying your workout with lighter weights or easier cardio.
Last but not least, and this is where we rely on you for personal accountability – remember that even though you can continue to work out when you have a common cold or above-the-neck symptoms, if you come to the gym, you are still exposing others to your germs. We rely on you to police yourselves by wiping down equipment and understanding the boundaries of others…your workout can wait, but your health and the health of others cannot.
Heid, M. (2018). You Asked: Should I Exercise When I’m Sick? TIME. Retrieved from http://time.com/5167299/should-you-exercise-when-you-are-sick/
Kubala, J. (2018). Working Out While Sick: Good or Bad? Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/working-out-while-sick
Mann, D. (n.d.). Exercising When Sick: A Good Move? WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/exercising-when-sick#1
Andrews, R. (n.d.). Exercise When Sick: Should You Sweat It Out? Or Rest and Recover? Precision Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.precisionnutrition.com/working-out-when-sick