Should You Work Out With A Cold Or Flu?

By Joe Vennare, PT & Fitness Program Director

Moving more is good for us, which makes regular exercise an essential component of a healthy, active lifestyle. Of course, creating that lifestyle takes time. It’s a product of repetition. That’s how we form habits. We try not to break the chain, for anything.

But what if we don’t have a choice. What happens if we come down with the flu? Should skpping exercise be an option?

Our Body Knows Best

When weighing your options, to exercise or not to exercise, your body should have the final say. If you have a fever, if you’re physically drained and your bones ache, working out probably won’t work. Your body can take only so much before it shuts down. If it’s telling you that it needs a break, you should listen, as difficult as that may be. Fighting off sickness takes a lot of energy. Instead of diverting that energy to exercise, give yourself the opportunity to recover. Give yourself time to get better. Then, you can return to your regular exercise routine.

It’s Not “All Or Nothing”

While it’s true that your body really does know best, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a say in whether or not you exercise. If you can muster up the energy and motivation, exercising while you’re under the weather can help you bounce back. Keep in mind, illness and exercise will not be a recipe for personal bests. It’s not the time to push your limits in an attempt to make progress. At best, workouts should be focused on maintaining your current standards. Better still, think of exercising while you’re sick as a way to keep your body moving. You’re simply trying to remain active, to ease yourself back into good health.

If your body has given you the go-ahead to exercise with a cold, follow these tips for the dos and don’ts of working out while you’re not feeling your best.

Don’t go for endurance tests

Because we’re not trying to over-stress our already sickly selves, there are some workouts that we should try to avoid. They include long, draining endurance efforts. Running 20 miles while you have a cold is a surefire way to make things worse. Similarly, shorter more intense workouts can have a disastrous impact. In both instances, we’re asking too much of ourselves in a vulnerable state. It’s unlikely that our bodies can sustain output for a long run. The same is true for the elevated heart rate, body temperature and overall stimulus of a taxing interval workout. The smart play when you’re sick is to say to yourself, “Don’t go there.”

Choose workouts wisely

Don’t make your cold worse. Choose your workouts wisely and jump-start your recovery. Stick to low intensity activities that you enjoy. The idea is to reduce stress, not to be the source of it. Your cold has that under control. Since we already know the activities we should avoid, let’s look at those workouts that we’re giving the go-ahead.

Yoga, Pilates And Calisthenics: Easy stretching, controlled breathing, relaxation techniques, flexibility training. Yes, those are all illness-approved forms of exercise.

Walking, Jogging, Cycling: When done at a low or moderate intensity, breaking a sweat can help alleviate the signs of sickness. Just remember to take it easy and keep it short.

Strength Training: Pumping iron could go either way. Attempting to move as much weight as possible is too taxing on the body. It takes time to recover from that type of workout. Your body needs that energy. Use your own body weight in place of free weights or machines. Push-ups, squats, lunges and sit-ups will do the trick.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Even though you’re armed with all this knowledge, sometimes it’s best to play it safe. If you’re feeling sick and you’re still unsure about whether or not you should be exercising, check with your doctor before hitting the gym.

Joe Vennare is the Physical Therapy & Fitness Director at Lea, where this article originally appeared. He is a one of the nation’s top fitness trainers, a freelance writer, and a fitness entrepreneur who co-founded of Hybrid Athlete, Kettlebell Cardio™ and Race Day Domination. Follow him on Twitter, @JoeVennare.


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