Does Exercise Help When Sick?

Reviewed on 7/8/2021

When you get sick, your body needs rest to recuperate. Exercise can help you to some extent when dealing with a stuffy nose. Exercise should be strictly avoided when you have a fever.
When you get sick, your body needs rest to recuperate. Exercise can help you to some extent when dealing with a stuffy nose. Exercise should be strictly avoided when you have a fever.

When you get sick, your body needs rest to recuperate. Although getting physically active when you feel sick may indeed perk you up and stretch your stiff muscles, it is important not to overdo it. Too much exercise when you are ill may make you giddy, nauseous, faint and aggravate your body aches.

Exercise can help you to some extent when dealing with a stuffy nose. It can help clear up the nasal congestion and make you feel temporarily better. However, it should not be a go-to method to bank on every time. Exercise should be strictly avoided when you have a fever. This is because, during fever, the body temperature is high and it can increase further when you exert yourself and make your fever worse. Generally, exercise is not recommended as a routine activity for all sick people.

When can you exercise and when you should not?

If you are someone who loves sweating it out every day, you may feel terrible about giving up your workouts. Sickness may mean hanging up your running shoes for a few to several days, but it is for your own good. Let us have a look at the following rules related to exercise and sickness:

When exercising is OK

You can do mild-to-moderate intensity exercises when you are sick with minor upper respiratory tract illnesses. For example, there is no harm in exercising when you have a runny nose, nasal congestion, stuffy nose, sneezing, teary eyes and so on. You can also exercise if you have a minor sore throat. If you are contagious, it is best to avoid the public gym.

When exercising is not OK

It is a no-no for exercise if your signs and symptoms are "below the neck," such as chest congestion, a hacking cough, a severe sore throat, flu-like symptoms (fever with cold or widespread muscle aches), diarrhea, vomiting or fatigue.

Listen to your body

If you do not feel like working out with your condition, do not do it. You need to pay attention to the demands of your body and then decide whether to hit the gym when it's most convenient for you.

What exercises are good when you’re sick? 

No weight-lifting, jogging and biking! Rather, go for a walk. However, do not go overboard and walk for one hour. A 20-minute walk should suffice. You may also do some stretching exercises, which help your body feel better.

If you still want to exercise and you do not feel too much under the weather, you can go for mild-to-moderate intensity exercises. Ideally, you should reduce the intensity and the duration of your workout by half. If you can do this without feeling uncomfortable, that’s a good enough sign that your body can take this workout. However, if you are unable to keep up the pace and feel miserable, take a break. Take a day or two off to avoid getting worse. You can resume your normal workout routine as you get better every day.

You can also take up light activities, such as yoga or pilates. It may make you feel better by alleviating the stress that comes along with the sickness.

Exercise is a great way to prevent getting sick in the first place. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise for at least five days a week to stay fit and boost your immune system.

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References
Mayo Clinic: "Is It OK to Exercise if I Have a Cold?" https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20058494

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