Should You Exercise While Under the Weather?

Woman StretchingShould you exercise when you’re sick? A recent study at Ball State University shows that exercising when you are sick isn’t bad for you. In fact, the results indicate that moderate physical activity can make you feel better when you’re under the weather. Study participants who exercised reported that they felt better, even though their symptoms were not noticeably different from the participants who did not exercise.[i]

Boost Immunity

Researchers concluded that exercise helps the body fight illness more aggressively. [ii] When a person completes a moderate exercise regimen, his or her immune system releases more cells that fight viruses. The cells are released in larger numbers for hours after exercising. The body’s immune system continues to actively kill off the intruding viral cells for most of the day if the person has been reasonably active for a short time.

Keep Moving

Studies have found that the type of exercise that is best during illness depends a great deal on the person’s current physical fitness. People not used to exercising regularly can benefit from a simple, brisk, half-hour walk. The Ball State study participants jogged for half hour every day for a full week. [iii] In general, the exercise should increase your heart rate without causing too much strain on your system. Any type of movement will give you a better chance of feeling good compared to remaining sedentary.

Practice Moderation

Too much strenuous exercise can be harmful when you are sick, however. Remember that your body is working to fight off whatever has attacked it and the fight requires extra energy. It is not a good idea to overly tax your system by working out too aggressively when you’re sick. The best approach is to cut back somewhat on your regular daily workout until you feel better. If you usually run for 45 minutes, knock off after 30 minutes when you’re under the weather. Moderate exercise can help you feel better faster, but strenuous exercise can make an illness worse.

Prepare Properly

You will need more prep time before you exercise when you are sick. Since dehydration is a common problem with most illnesses, make sure to drink plenty of water before and after you exercise. You should also spend a little extra time stretching. Your body is not operating at full capacity, so you need to help it out by giving it more time to adjust when pushing it harder during a moderate exercise routine. Add time to your warm-up and cool-down until you begin to recover.

Watch the Weather

Avoid exercising in extreme cold, damp or hot conditions until you feel better. Breathing cold air deep into your lungs when you have a cold could cause your bronchial tubes to contract more severely, making it harder to breathe. Sweating too much during a hot run could cause you to lose too much water and sodium from your system, dehydrating you quickly. Exercising in cold rain or damp weather can make congestion symptoms worse. Exercise in a dry, temperate place until your symptoms are completely gone so that you don’t accidentally make them worse during your workout.

Pay Attention to Symptoms

Not all illnesses benefit from exercise. Doctors recommend that you rest, rather than stress yourself, if cold symptoms are in your lungs rather than your head. If you have persistent aches in your joints, don’t push yourself by trying to exercise. Anyone with a fever should avoid exercise until the fever has been gone for at least 24 hours. Exercise can sap your body’s strength when infection is present. Your symptoms will go from bad to worse quickly if you don’t allow your body to rest. If you’re not sure whether you should exercise, check with your doctor.

Stay Healthy

The best thing about exercising regularly is that you could be increasing your chances to stay healthy in the first place. People who exercise give their immune systems a boost on a regular basis, making them less susceptible to viruses and other illnesses that might have otherwise knocked them off the treadmill for a while. The best exercise routine is one that keeps you healthy and active so you don’t have to worry about whether exercise is a good idea when you’re suffering from illness.

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