When you’re feeling rough, working out might be the last thing on your mind. But there’s a time to push through and a time you should relax with hot drinks and a duvet. The key is learning to tell the difference.
If you’re desperate to workout, there is hope. Science shows us that it’s still ok to exercise when you’re feeling unwell, and that it could be beneficial. A study in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that people exercising with a cold didn’t worsen their symptoms or lengthen the illness. In fact, moderate exercise often helps you feel better and boosts immunity.
But when do you cross that fine line of working through illness and making it worse?
This rule is the answer. Doctors advise that if your symptoms are anywhere from the neck down, stay at home and rest. This includes coughing, stomach pain and aching muscles.
But if your symptoms are above the neckline such as running nose, sore throat, mild headache, you should be okay to do a low-intensity workout.
Participants in the study did 40 minutes of moderate-intensity running. So you could do any exercise that gets you breathing slightly more heavily, or ‘non-panting’ cardio. Or consider changing your activity so instead of your usual run take a gentle jog or bike ride, do some stretching or try foam rolling to help any aches.
However, if you start to feel worse at any time during then ease up. The key is to listen to your body, not punish it! If you push yourself too hard you will stress your body and temporarily lower your immunity, risking further infection, You also risk injury as your technique will suffer if you feel unwell.
Finally, make sure you hydrate properly; this will help to improve brain function, reduce risk of injury and help your body recover from illness faster.
If you really can’t make it to the gym, don’t worry. Missing a couple of workouts won’t stop you reaching your goals, and a well-rested body will serve you much better. Don’t forget, even top athletes get unwell!
Completely agree with Brittany - if you're sneezing etc then stay away from the gym!
that's interesting about the neck rule! I would add though that if you are in the gym, sneezing and coughing, you'll give it to the rest of us so an outdoor workout would be preferable.