Exercising When You're Sick
What’s the best medicine for your recovery: sweat it out or rest?
When your body is inhibited with a sickness, your immune system has to work in overdrive to defend itself. This can include both natural and acquired immunity (think: vaccinations.) When there’s an upper respiratory tract infection (sinuses for the most part) then exercise can affect the immune system in different ways. So we need to be mindful of what exercises we perform to ensure we aren’t suppressing the immune system even more.
Types of activities:
Consider light activities such as: walking, possibly a light jog, swimming, biking or yoga.
Avoid more strenuous or demanding exercise like: strength or endurance training (anything with weight resistance), HIIT cardio (intervals at high intensity), team sports or anything in a high heat (avoid hot yoga – that’s not the best way to ‘sweat it out.’)
Consider short or moderate activities (anywhere from 15-45 minutes) that are low impact on your body.
Avoid longer activities (an hour or more) because that can lead to your immune system being further impacted.
Your immune system can be affected in other ways beyond exercise when you’re already feeling sick.
We know that stress can be one of the biggest factors in a weakened immune system and ultimately getting sick (this is the factor that causes me to be down and out for a few days!)
Age can also become a factor. As we get older, our immune system can start to wear down, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting full doses of your micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Not sure if you’re up to par? Talk to your family doctor about getting a full blood panel! Most, if not all, of it should be covered under your healthcare.
If you’re not sleeping enough, your immune system can run low. And I’m not talking, “oh I can sleep for 5 hours and survive all day.” No, that’s not enough. Your body really needs more than that. 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night is what we want. Natural supplementation like melatonin and/or magnesium can help calm your mind and keep you in a deeper state of sleep. Check out Canadian Protein to order your natural sleep aids like melatonin and magnesium at safe and cost-effective dosages.
Feeling stressed or anxious? You better believe that your MOOD can affect (read: negatively impact) your immune system, making the changes much greater of you catching a sickness.
Ok, so get to the point already, right? What SHOULD you do when you are feeling sick?
Let your signs and symptoms tell you what to do.
If your mind is clouded and you don’t wake up with a little hop in your step, or if you feel like you need to call in sick to work or avoid people, then you should take time off from the gym. Especially considering how many people you can come in contact with; if your immune system is feeling down, then you’l be more likely to pick up a virus in the gym, and you could spread your germs upon others... and no one wants any of that! If you feel like your sinuses might be a little backed up (think: sore throat, running nose, itchy throat or plugged ears) then please avoid group contact and stick to a light walk or jog if you’re itching to do something.
If you feel like you need to go to the doctor’s office, then you definitely need to be avoiding demanding exercise. I always recommend to my athletes to stay out of the gym and off of the strength training programming until you are completely off your antibiotics. It’s common to want to get back on the program after a few days of the antibiotics kicking in (because you’re feeling better) but your body is still working very hard to repair your immune system. Let your body work through all that it needs to do. It’s going to take a couple days longer than you wish, but it’s going to help your body, guaranteed.
When in doubt, take a rest day. You might just need one day off to feel better, and taking an extra rest day is always going to do you well! I promise, ONE day isn’t going to set you back, derail your progress or sabotage your gains. You’ll absolutely be better off in the long run.