Should You Exercise When You Are Sick? A Trainer Weighs In

This is a question that does not have a simple answer.

It depends on what kind of sickness you have, how sick you really are and what parts of your body are affected. We all know what happens when winter rolls around. Kleenex sales increase, there are more empty desks as your colleagues get struck down one by one with a cold and at least one male you know falls victim to the dreaded man flu. If you’re feeling a little under the weather and you’re not sure whether or not you should still complete your workout then the first question you should ask yourself is “how sick am I really?”

So, have you got a seasonal cold or have you been struck down with the flu?

Anyone who has had the flu knows it is more than just a runny nose or a sore throat. A flu generally brings with it aches and pains, a fever, little to no energy and an overwhelming need for sleep. When you’re struck down with the flu, your immune system is already in overdrive trying to fight it off. A fever, for example, is your body trying to get rid of an infection. Trying to exercise on top of this is putting your body under even more stress and this is when rest definitely is the best option.

A cold on the other hand might simply be a blocked nose, sore throat or even just that overarching feeling of being “under the weather”. In this case, you might be able to get in a workout. If you’ve got a cold but feel like you could still get active then by all means get moving but take it easy. This might mean trading your run for a walk, or boot camp for yoga. It’s better to lower the intensity and let yourself recover rather than push through and burn out.

When you can probably do a gentle workout:

I like to use the neck rule. If your symptoms are above the neck (think sniffles, blocked nose, runny nose) then you should be fine to do a workout. However, if you find yourself feeling dizzy, out of breath or more fatigued than normal – stop your workout immediately.

When rest is best:

If you’re feeling feverish, achy or chesty – rest is best. You’re better off toning down the workouts and letting your body recover than trying to stick to your workout regime and crashing and burning.

How real food helps with your immunity:

Did you know that 70 to 90 per cent of your immune system is in your small intestine? Therefore, what you eat has a significant impact on your immunity.

Our digestive system affects everything from our mood to our immunity. Maintain good gut health by avoiding refined sugar which can lead to an overabundance of ‘wrong’ bacteria in the gut. Support your digestion and immune system with foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.

Incorporate both garlic and turmeric where you can and eat a balanced diet consisting of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens and healthy fats from avocados, coconut and extra virgin olive oils, seeds and nuts.

Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, berries and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussel sprouts are also important. These are all high in Vitamin C and are in peak season during winter to help support your body’s needs and help ward off colds and flus.

Sam Wood is the founder of online training and nutrition program 28 by Sam Wood and Australia’s largest personal training gym ‘The Woodshed’. 

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