Myth Buster. I'm Sick. Should I Still Workout? by Stuart MacEwan
I hear this question a few times every month. It can be a momentum killer to pause workouts while fighting an ailment, so I understand why clients want to know if they can or should workout while sick. Unfortunately the answer isn’t a black and white. You will need to judge the severity of your sickness yourself and make up your own mind. Here’s what you need to know while making your decision.
When your body is fighting off an infection (bacterial or viral), your immune system is going into overdrive to produce antibodies that will combat the bug. Your body will require hydration, nutrition and energy to bolster your immune system. You will also probably require more sleep than usual to allow your body to heal (bodies heal most efficiently while at complete rest). Depending on the nature of your illness, you might have tender skin, joints and mucous membranes due to inflammation. All of this points to your body working extra hard and expending energy to overcome your malady.
Working out with intensity will cause the body to use considerable nutrition and energy while causing muscles to stress and need healing. Do you have enough energy to recover from a strenuous workout while also fighting off a cold? Consider that if you ask your body to heal up from a workout while also fighting an illness you compromise your body’s ability to fight off the bothersome bug. Who wants to be sicker any longer than you have to be?
Use your energy as a guideline. Are you fading fast as you go through your workout? That’s a sign to go home and rest. If you don’t feel like your energy is suffering during your workout then you can probably go ahead and workout normally. Most people can workout while dealing with a common head-cold or cough without trouble.
Are you contagious? Nobody likes to share gym space with a leaky, sneezy person. Consider a workout in the privacy of your home until you feel better. Do you have a fever? The body’s temperature rises as it struggles to fight off sickness, which is a good sign to conserve your energy for your immune system by resting instead of working out.
Another option is just to bundle up and take a moderate walk. Walking isn’t very stressful on energy or the body’s tissues and is a good compromise on days when you just aren’t sure you are up for a hard workout.
As for myself, if I feel like ‘death warmed over’, I stay home. My workout would have been terrible anyhow. Generally after a day or two, I start to feel better and will get back into the gym before I get too anxious about skipping too many workouts. By then, my immune system had the time it needed to get through the worst part of my cold or flu and I don’t feel compromised anymore even though I might not be totally well yet.
Remember, reaching goals takes time. Taking a few days off to get well won’t derail your progress very much, so next time you are sick consider taking care of yourself by resting up, drinking plenty of water and eating highly nutritious meals to get your body up and running again quickly. But come back to the gym as soon as possible; you will be missed!