Should you exercise if you’re sick? How sick is too sick? Your alarm goes off to get up and prepped for a workout, but as you stand, you realise you’re not feeling your best.
Your nose might begin to drip, your muscles might be crying out for rest, and your throat might be feeling like you’ve swallowed a cheese grater. You’re sick. And at this point, there’s an internal dilemma going on: do you push on with exercise or do you resign to rest?
Here are some general tips to help you decide what’s right for you …
The “neck check”
The neck check is a common test athletes use to determine where their symptoms are, and whether exercise poses a risk of making them worse or overstraining the body. If symptoms are above the neck, such as a runny nose, congestion, or a mild sore throat, light exercise is considered okay. If symptoms are below the neck such as a respiratory infection, congestion in the chest and airways, or you’re experiencing pain, nausea, or a fever, these are a sign that you should opt for your bed.
If you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms, your body needs to rest:
- Persistent coughing
- Body, muscle aches and fatigue
- Fever or chills
- Congestion or tightness in the chest
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhoea
What about the “sweat it out” theory?
This might be a bombshell, but the “sweating out” of a cold or illness has no scientific evidence to support the theory. In fact, it may make things worse. As you exercise and sweat, you lose precious electrolytes and hydration that your body needs to help fight off the illness, meaning you’ll stay sick for longer.
Sweating might help ease nasal congestion and improve circulation when your sickness is very mild, but it won’t do you any good if you’re already in the throes of the battle.
Tune into what your body is telling you
Your body is pretty attuned and practiced at telling you things, you just need to listen. If your body is giving you signals that it’s not up to the task and desperately waving a white flag at the notion of exercise, give yourself a break and rest so that you can recover sooner.
Don’t go too hard too early
If you’ve decided to have a few days’ rest from exercise and you’re feeling on the mend, you’re probably tempted to make up for lost ground and dive straight back into a rigorous regime. But it’s best to take things slowly for the first few sessions to avoid delaying your recovery or even incurring an injury.
Talk to your health professional
When it comes to sickness, you should always consult with your GP or a trusted health professional before making any decisions around exercise and recovery. •