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Should you exercise when sick

The weather is changing. For many of us it’s getting colder which means the likelihood of developing a cold or flu. If you started working out seriously this could put a damper on your progress.

What should you do if you get sick? Well that depends on the type of illness.

Type of illness that can affect your workout

  • Colds – Having a head cold with blocked breathing and having to clear your nasal passages often can be annoying. The last thing you want to do is exercise. However, studies have shown that activity can help you overcome the effects of these feelings. It’s recommended that you do only light exercises and not go full force.
  • Diarrhea/Vomiting – If you are suffering from the from any of these symptoms, I recommend you avoid working out because putting additional strain on your body can make these things worse.
  • Fever Chills – Do not workout when you are suffering from a fever. Fevers cause you to sweat and lose bodily fluids as your body tries to keep core temperature in the normal range. Sweating from doing exercises when you have a fever will only cause you to lose more fluids and can make your condition worse.
  • Fatigue Muscle or achy feeling – Ever had those days when you just don’t have the energy and your body feels weak? I know I have. And the workout results were not good. There is a higher likelihood of getting injured or hurting someone else. Follow your gut and don’t exercise. There is always tomorrow.

Related: Learn how to deal with the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

  • Coughing or chest tightness – I follow the advice of most physicians who recommend that if your symptoms are above the neck then it’s OK to exercise. This includes sore throat, sneezing or nasal congestion. If the symptoms are below the neck – fever all over, tightness in the chest, coughing – don’t exercise. It’s best to consult with your doctor for advice.

Problems with taking time off for illness

Restarting your workout routineĀ – Sometimes you need to take time off from stressing your body with exercises for various reasons (vacations, injuries, illness). When this happens, you will have to work your way back to where you left off.

So many times, I see gym members get injured because they started up where they left off. In your mind you feel you can do it but your body works differently. Granted we have muscle memory and can, but it takes time to build up the strength and stamina after not doing it for 10 days or more.

Start with 80 percent of where you left off and build up from there. I like to do a few days of lighter sets where I can do ten to twelve repetitions of each exercise before I jump back to the heavy stuff.

Muscles are weaker – Depending on your type of illness there may be some muscle atrophy. For example, if you had the flu and were off for two weeks you may notice your muscles looking like they have more flab than when you were exercising regularly.

You will also be weaker because of inactivity and the way your illness affected your body. Follow the steps above to regain your form and strength.

Certain medications may also have an adverse effect of your strength. Check with your healthcare provider for guidance.

Consult with a PT and follow their advice as they have all been through the experience themselves and with their clients.

How to protect yourselves from getting sick

Research points out that regular exercise can strengthen your immune system and lower your risk of catching a cold. And there is no financial burden involved for staying healthy compared to paying for medications that only mask the symptoms.

Eat the right foods to help your body’s immune system fight off invading bacteria. I keep my dairy consumption to a minimum and add more seasonal products including fresh fruits and veggies to my diet.

Wash hands regularly. Throughout the day we come in contact with many germy surfaces – door handles, telephones, elevator buttons, shopping carts, weights at the gym and etc. Washing hands and even carrying medicated wipes can reduce your chances of getting sick.

If you are an older person, consider getting the flu shot before the season starts. Consult with your doctor for more information.

Because we tend to sweat when we have a cold it’s important to replace lost fluids by staying hydrated. Drink water and not sugary drinks.

Keep hands and other germ containing things from you face . . . especially your eyes.

And lastly, give your body the rest it needs since this is when it has a chance to heal and repair itself.

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