Should you be working out while sick? The answer: it depends.
Exercise is great for boosting your immune system, but should you still get a workout in when you’re starting to feel run down?
Studies show that light to moderate intensity exercise can reduce inflammation and improve immune response to respiratory viral infections, meaning you’ll be less likely to catch a cold or flu – and you’ll recover faster if you do get sick. Prolonged intense exercise, on the other hand, will have the opposite effect and suppress the immune system, making you more susceptible to getting or staying sick. (1)
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Still, there are situations where any type of exercise isn’t recommended. So, what should you do next time you get the sniffles?
Here are our top five rules to help you decide when to stick with your workout, or when to stay in bed. Remember, the most important rule when exercising is to always listen to your body.
1. Exercise When You Have These Symptoms:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Light cough
- Ear ache
- Sinus pressure
2. Rest When You Have These Symptoms:
- Body aches and chills
- Chest tightness, wheezing, moderate-to-severe coughing
3. Don’t Spread Germs
Don’t go to the gym or a yoga class if you’re contagious. While it is important for you to exercise, you definitely don’t want to get others sick! Keep your workouts at home or outside where you won’t be infecting others.
4. Decrease Your Workout Intensity
Lighten up your high-intensity workouts. If regular high-intensity workouts like HIIT, cycling class, and cardio kickboxing are part of your normal exercise routine, take it a little easier than normal or substitute them with slower workouts that will still work up a sweat without draining all of your energy.
5. Try These Gentle Workouts
- Yoga. Practice vinyasa or hatha yoga to work up a light sweat, release achy muscles, and energize your body. Try yin or restorative yoga to soothe your nervous system when you’re feeling too drained to do much more. (2)
- Light strength training. Pick up a few small dumbbells to help you to slowly work up a nice sweat without over-taxing your body.
- Light cardio. Walking, jogging, or going up and down the stairs is a great way to get immune-boosting effects and work up a detoxifying sweat.
(Your Next Workout: 8 Yoga Poses to Reduce Inflammation + Boost Immunity)