Is it Okay to Exercise While Ill? Tips for Exercising After Being Sick
Exercising While Sick and After Illness: A Guide to Safe and Effective Workouts
While the holidays are the perfect time to relax, unwind, and catch up with family and friends, they’re also a great time to get back into your workout routine. The issue with the holidays, however? They also coincide with flu season – a workout enthusiasts’ greatest nemesis.
Now, we know that having the flu or a simple cold during the holidays can feel like derailed progress, but we’re here to tell you that’s simply not the case! In this blog, we’ll give you our ultimate sick-day exercise tips to help keep you on track and motivated – even if you may be feeling a little under the weather.
And, while these tips may be helpful, we also want to remind you to speak to your trusted healthcare physician about your individual health needs and lifestyle accommodations during an illness. It’s also absolutely best to stay home from the gym when you’re contagious in order to prevent any spreading of germs to fellow gym-goers.
Things to Remember About Exercising When You’re Sick
Reminder: when you’re under the weather, it’s vital that you listen to your body! While exercise can often be beneficial, pushing yourself too hard may hinder recovery. Gauge your symptoms, and if they are above the neck (like a runny nose), light exercise might be okay. However, if symptoms are below the neck (such as chest congestion), it’s best to rest.
The faster you try to get over your illness and get back to the gym, the longer you’re prolonging recovery and training at your best. When it comes to healing from illness, slow and steady wins the race.
Benefits of Exercise During Illness
We know, we know. Didn’t we just say you shouldn’t exercise while sick?
Technically, yes, but there are actually several benefits of exercising while sick for both the body and mind. We do want to preface this by saying that the type and intensity of exercise should align with the nature and severity of the illness. If you’re lethargic and bedridden, obviously don’t go and run a 5k. But, if you feel up for a light, mind-clearing exercise to get the blood pumping, we always recommend doing what feels right to you (with proper clearance from your healthcare professional, of course.)
That being said, here are our favourite benefits of exercising during illness.
Improved Circulation and Immunity
Engaging in gentle exercise serves as a perfect aid in improving both circulation and immunity. As you engage in activities such as walking, light jogging, or gentle stretches, your muscles demand increased oxygen and nutrients, encouraging blood circulation throughout the body.
Stress Relief and Mental Well-Being
Participating in mild workouts during illness can be incredibly helpful for stress, as well as being a valuable contributor to mental well-being. When you engage in physical activity, even at a gentle intensity, your body releases endorphins—natural chemicals in the brain known for their mood-enhancing properties.
Maintaining Muscle Mass and Strength
Maintaining muscle mass and strength is also a crucial consideration when you have the flu or a simple cold, where physical activity may be limited. Engaging in some level of activity, even if it’s gentle or modified to accommodate your illness, plays a key role in preventing muscle soreness.
Dangers of Exercising While Ill
While exercising if you’re feeling ill does, of course, have a few benefits, it’s important to remember that exercising while sick also carries potential dangers that warrant consideration.
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing to exercise.
Spreading Germs in Public Workout Spaces
If you decide to exercise in a public gym, be mindful of others and sanitize equipment to prevent the spread of illness. Opting for an at-home workout is the perfect solution to prevent the spread of germs to others.
Over-Exerting Your Body
Pushing too hard can strain an already compromised immune system and lead to prolonged recovery times. Consult with an experienced personal trainer to determine which exercises might be a bit too harsh for you to do while sick.
How to Know If You’re Ready to Workout After You’ve Been Sick: 3 Tips
Trying to decide if you’re ready to resume workouts after being sick involves listening to your body and considering various factors. Here are three key tips to help you assess your readiness:
- Check Your Symptoms: Ensure that symptoms are truly improving and that you’re feeling good enough to stand/exercise for at least 15-minutes.
- Take It Slow: Start with low-intensity exercises to assess your body’s response. From there, assess your movements and adjust your schedule based on how you’re feeling or performing.
- Stay Hydrated and Well-Nourished: Adequate nutrition and hydration are essential for a successful return to exercise. Choose a light snack with lots of protein and a beverage with electrolytes to keep your body hydrated as much as possible.
The Best Post-Sickness Recovery Workouts
After recovering from an illness like the flu or a cold, it’s crucial to ease back into exercise with caution and prioritize activities that support your body’s recovery. Here are a few of our favourite workouts for right after you’ve been sick.
Walking serves as a gentle yet effective way to initiate your recovery process after an illness. A leisurely stroll can be a perfect starting point, as it allows you to gradually reintroduce physical activity without imposing undue stress on your body.
Embracing gentle, restorative yoga can be a rejuvenating and therapeutic way to support your body’s recovery after an illness. Restorative yoga emphasizes relaxation and encourages the release of tension in both the body and mind.
Choose a leisurely bike ride. Cycling is a low-impact exercise that allows you to gradually reintroduce cardio without stressing your body.
Use light weights and perform high-repetition sets. This helps rebuild strength without overwhelming your recovering body.
Incorporate bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups and can be adjusted to your current fitness level.
Remember to listen to your body, start slowly, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts as you regain strength. If you experience any discomfort or worsening symptoms, it’s essential to scale back and give your body more time to recover.
Three Nutrition and Hydration Tips for Recovery
Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial components of the recovery process after the flu. Here are three essential tips to support your body’s recovery.
- Hydrate – Staying well-hydrated is paramount for recovery. Replenish fluids by drinking water, herbal teas, and electrolyte-rich beverages. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day, and more if you’re engaging in physical activity.
- Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods – Nourish your body with a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats in your meals. Foods like chicken soup, rich in nutrients and easy on the digestive system, can be particularly beneficial. These nutrients support the immune system and aid in the repair of tissues damaged during illness.
- Track Your Protein Intake – Protein is crucial for muscle repair and recovery. Include protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts in your diet. Adequate protein intake supports the rebuilding of tissues and helps maintain muscle mass, especially important if your activity levels were reduced during illness.
Join Fitness World Today and Start Your Fitness Journey
While these tips were hopefully helpful, we also want to remind you again to speak to your trusted healthcare physician about your individual health needs and lifestyle accommodations during an illness!
At Fitness World, we believe in holistic well-being. Whether you’re recovering from illness or striving for peak fitness, our versatile range of fitness classes and expert guidance from personal trainers will support your journey.