Junior apple Lance asks:
“Hey, Mark, what’s the deal with working out when you are sick? Is it true that exercise is safe if you have a cold, but bad if you have the flu?”
There are some general rules to follow, but in my opinion, the best thing to do is to trust your instincts. Sometimes when you’re sick you don’t have severe symptoms, but you feel fatigued and weak nevertheless. Other times you may be so symptomatic you’re virtually a stockholder in Kleenex, yet you’re physically peppy enough to function. Often the sniffly, frog-in-the-throat cold symptoms come as you’re nearly healed, so at this point, it’s fine and healthy to exercise. The funny thing is that this is usually the point when we really notice our illness; but by this point, the virus is already well under attack by your immune system.
Energy is a subtle thing; pay attention to how it moves in your body. There’s no benefit to a heart-pumping, calorie-burning workout if your tissues and organs are depleted of their energy; this will only drain you further. My advice? If your heart’s just not in it – if you just can’t “get into” the workout, it’s probably not the best idea to push it. On the other hand, if you simply feel a little crummy, a mild workout like a walk in the fresh air can actually speed your recovery dramatically (be sure to shower and nap afterwards to stimulate healing).
Bottom line: pay heed to that instinct!
Here are general guidelines:
If your symptoms are mostly “in your head” (sniffles, headache, sore throat) it’s usually fine to exercise. Caveats: have a terrible headache, fever or brain fog? Stay in bed.
If your symptoms are closer to the “business end” (nausea and other unpleasantries) do not work out under any circumstances. You need rest and fluids and possibly a trip to the doc. Caveats: if you’ve got “the shakes” from jet lag or too much partying, a workout will actually do you good, though it definitely won’t be fun.
If your muscles are a bit achy, a gentle swim or a walk can help. Caveats: if your bones ache or if you feel stiff, don’t attempt exercise – your organs and acid production are trying desperately to cope with whatever bug has invaded your system, so lie low, amigo.
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