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I’m sick. Should I work out?

Hey, it’s Jennifer, I just want to take a minute to talk about exercising while you’re sick. There’s a lot of stuff going around right now, and a lot of people ask, “Should I be working out when I’m sick? Should I not? Should I rest up? What should I do?” I feel like people tend to be on one side of the spectrum or the other – they either don’t do anything and rest up as much as you can, or they try to sweat it out and get the sickness out of them that way. The truth is: one, usually there is a middle ground, and two, it depends on what you’ve got.

This isn’t doctor’s advice, or anything, so if you have questions about your specific illness, please talk to your doctor, but in general, there’s some rules of thumb we can follow.

You never want to do the most intense exercise you’ve ever done when you’re sick, so keep it light. If you’ve got like nasal symptoms – congestion, or runny nose, or maybe a tension headache – that would be a time when you might feel a little bit better if you do some light exercise. Exercise increases your heart rate and circulation, which can help the body release fluids, which might help you feel better with the congestion and stuff after a little exercise – you just want to make sure that you’re replacing that fluid with lots of water and electrolytes during and after.

If you’ve got symptoms like a fever, difficulty breathing, or coughing, those mean you should rest up, don’t work out. Having a fever decreases your muscle strength and increases your fluid loss and your body temperature. Since exercise also increases your body temperature and fluid loss, you don’t want to make those symptoms worse by exercising – that’s not going to feel good.

If you’re having a hard time breathing at rest. Exercising and having to breathe harder isn’t going to feel good either. Same thing if you are coughing. Don’t exacerbate your symptoms.

In general, if you are dealing with nasal congestion, runny nose, or tension headache, and some light exercise is going to feel good and maybe help you feel a little bit better, avoid the gym – don’t get the rest of us sick, please try to work out at home as long as it’s decent weather outside and then listen to your body. If you start and you’re just feeling wiped out and exhausted, stop. Also, make sure that you’re eating enough and fueling enough to be doing this kind of activity. A lot of times when we’re sick, we don’t really feel like eating or stuff doesn’t taste good and you just don’t eat. That’s not going to be good fuel to then add exercise on top of that.

That’s my advice for working out or not working out when you’re sick. Hope it helps. Again, if you have any specific questions about your particular symptoms, contact your doctor. Thank you!

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.