I’m sick. Apparently, the only way children have to thank you for tending to their needs while afflicted with head and chest colds is to pass them on. Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.
I had a big workout week planned. Lots of heavy lifting and some cardio intervals to compensate for Thanksgiving weekend dinner and pumpkin pie cheesecake. Mmmmm.
The question ‘should you exercise when sick’ is one I hear frequently.
Many people believe that ‘sweating it out’ is a good thing. I’m not one of them. There’s no evidence anywhere that viruses and bacteria leave your body via your sweat; just sayin’.
Others follow the rule ‘above your neck, head to the gym; below your neck, stay home’. I believe that the body works as a singular entity; above-the-neck illnesses don’t just affect above-the-neck body parts.
When I’m sick, I don’t work out and I don’t teach classes. I do, however, aim for some low-exertion movement, to keep my joints and brain from seizing up. How much? It depends on how I’m feeling. Usually, a walk around the block is enough. I listen to my body and so should you!
Should you exercise when sick? 5 reasons not to
- exercise can delay recovery; when your body has been invaded by a virus or bacteria, the immune system goes into overdrive. Immune response is energetically costly. That’s why you feel so tired when you’re sick. Expend a lot of energy during a workout and your immune system has nothing to fuel it. A weakened or suppressed immune response often leads to longer recovery times.
- a tired and weakened body is more prone to injury; for many, it’s psychologically difficult to scale back their workouts. We’ve been taught that progression is the key to getting stronger and faster and don’t want to bench press less or run at a slower pace than we did last week, even when we’re ill. Attempting your regular workout with a tired and weakened body often leads to injuries that can keep you out of the gym long after your illness is over.
- your fellow gym-goers don’t want to get sick; gyms are dirty places to begin with. Even if your gym provides paper towels and liquid sanitizers for patrons to clean equipment with (all gyms should!), bacteria and viruses are resilient. They like to hide in warm, damp crevices and can travel for remarkably long distances when airborne. YOU don’t want to work out next to someone who’s sick and NEITHER do your fellow gym-goers. Do unto others and all that.
- your workout will be second-rate at best; endurance and stamina are usually the first things to go when we get sick. If your workout is only going to end up being half of what it usually is, wouldn’t that time and energy be better spent resting and recovering? I’ve never heard anybody say “man, I feel great after I exercise when sick”.
- a forced rest is as good as a planned rest; allowing your body to rest adequately between workouts is one of the most effective ways to see the fruits of your labours in the gym. Think of your time away from the gym as a muscle building phase, rather than an illness. It’s amazing how much better a little positive spin can make you feel!
Now it’s your turn;
Do you exercise when sick?
Tell me why or why not?
Then, please, make some chicken soup and send it my way?