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Should You Exercise While Sick?

Oct 3, 2014

Flu season is just around the corner, and while many people prepare themselves with flu shots, there is still a good chance you will come down with a cold at some point. When it comes to exercise, many people recommend taking some time off and allowing the body to rest. It is true that strenuous activity will cause more stress to the body. However, light activity may actually boost your immune system and help you get over your cold faster.

The intensity should not be strenuous, and this all depends on what your individual definition of what strenuous is. Physical activity with full body movements with a lower level of exertion would be considered non-strenuous. Walking, light biking, stretching, foam rolling, yoga and other meditation forms are all great choices for exercise while sick. Eating healthy foods and drinking extra water will help you stay hydrated and maintain energy levels.

The frequency of exercise should be based on the symptoms you are experiencing, not all illnesses are equal. If your symptoms include fever, headache, joint/muscle aches, diarrhea, or vomiting it is best to rest. If your symptoms are coughing, sneezing, runny/stuffy nose, and sore throat, then low intensity exercise may be beneficial. If symptoms worsen from day to day don’t exercise, and ask a doctor what to do. If after 4 days you are not improving a doctor should check you out. If you start to feel better you still need to be patient before ramping up to your normal intensity. The rule of thumb is to ease into your routine for the same number of days you were sick. For example if sick for 3 days, then ease back into it for 3 days before full intensity. If you are sick, do the rest of us a favor and stay out of the fitness facility. Spreading illness is not productive to anyone.

Works Cited

Andrews, Ryan. "Exercise When You're Sick: Should You Sweat It Out? Or Rest and Recover?" Precision Nutrition. Precision Nutrition, n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2014.

Harvard Medical School. "New Releases." How to Boost Your Immune System : Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Health Publications, n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2014.

Medline Plus. "Exercise and Immunity: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.


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