These last few months have been tough ones on my diet, and on my exercise regimen. It seems like every time I get motivated and start working out, something will blindside me and I get short circuited. This year it has mostly been because I’ve been sick off and on for a good part of the year. In fact, right now I’m coming off of being sick for over a week with an ear infection, pink eye and a sinus infection. Not fun!
The Center For Disease Control estimates that during flu season up to 20 percent of Americans will suffer from the flu. That’s a lot of people getting sick!
One thing I’ve been curious about through all this sickness was whether or not it’s a good idea to work out when you’re sick, or whether you should put a hold on exercise until your body has recuperated.
An article on CNN.com gives one expert’s opinion on whether or not you should exercise during illness:
At least one expert says that if you think you’re coming down with a cold or the flu you should probably skip your daily workout.
“I tell people to listen to their bodies. If they are sick, their body is telling them something is wrong.” said Dr. Rick Kellerman of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Even though it may be tempting to not break an exercise routine, working out may actually prolong the illness,” Kellerman said. And, in rare cases “viruses can damage heart muscles,” he added.
Kellerman said it is a myth that you can sweat out germs and toxins. He acknowledges that “low levels of exercise increase endorphins and benefit the body, but an intense workout that creates high levels of endorphins can wear down the immune system.”
In other words, “Don’t count on endorphins to heal you,” he said.
So working out when you’re sick can actually be bad for you in some cases, and may even prolong the illness. Some low level of exercise is probbably ok, and may benefit the body, but intense workouts probably aren’t a good idea.
So when should you, and when shouldn’t you exercise?
Kellerman advises his patients to skip their workout if they have a fever. It puts too much stress on the heart, which already is beating faster because of the higher body temperature. If you’re suffering from chest congestion, coughing and shortness of breath, he said, you also shouldn’t work out. And exercising with a stomach ache will probably make you feel worse, he added.
But if you have the sniffles and milder symptoms of a cold, moderate exercise is probably OK, Kellerman said.
Only have the sniffles and a head cold? You’re probably alright for some moderate exercise. More severe? Hit the sheets and rest up!
So a couple of things to remember:
- Have the flu, a fever or coughing or shortness of breath? You’re probably better off not exercising
- Have a slight cold or a runny nose? You’re probably fine with some light cardio. It may even help a little. Don’t overdo it though!
Have you ever exercised while sick? How did it affect you? Let us know in the comments.