Exercising When You’re Sick


December 13, 2017 04:23 PM

You have been disciplined about your gym routine for the past few months and exercising on a regular basis.  Suddenly you come down with an illness.  Wonderful! Now you can’t work out until you get over it.  Not so fast…getting some exercise when you’re sick isn’t always a bad idea.  Getting a workout in can actually boost your immune system and help you get over this bug faster.

If you are feeling really under the weather and are having a hard time getting out of bed, rest is probably what’s best for you.  But for a case of the sniffles, some low intensity, low heart rate “cardio” can help you feel better.  In general, a 20 or 30-minute walk done either outside or on a treadmill at home (not in a public gym-you don’t want to spread your illness) is the preferred method of exercise.  There are few other low-intensity activities you can consider:

Good Choices

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Biking

Bad Choices

  • Prolonged endurance training
  • Team sports
  • Sprinting or power related activities
  • Heavy strength training
  • High-Intensity interval training
  • Exercising in extreme temperatures

With a minor cold, exercise as described above is fine as tolerated.  You don’t want to do anything with moderate to high levels of intensity.  This is not the time to go run for an hour or fit in that triathlon workout.  Long duration endurance activities have been shown to depress the immune system.

If you have a systemic illness with fever, elevated heart rate, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain, weakness, and swollen lymph nodes, by all means, DO NOT EXERCISE.  Get some rest!  If you have a serious virus and you exercise it can cause problems.

Some illnesses can indicate a serious infection.  Generally, if you are not feeling better and showing signs of recovering, you should see your doctor.  When you are feeling a little better, let your symptoms be your guide, ease back into exercise in proportion to the length of your illness.  For example, if you were sick for 3 days then take 3 days to get back into your workout.