Exercising When Sick – A good idea?


It’s January, the beginning of a new year.  This is an exciting time in our industry, as we encounter lots of people who have specific fitness goals.  This might be in the form of New Year’s resolutions, regular gym goers who are just re-focusing their exercise and nutrition plans, or competitive bodybuilders and physique athletes looking ahead at competition season later this year. 

Unfortunately, January also means we’re in the midst of cold and flu season.  Certainly, no one plans to get sick, and it always seems like we get sick at the most inconvenient times.  This is especially frustrating for goal-oriented people like myself, who “simply do not have time to be sick!” (sound familiar?)  When you have been killing it in the gym and staying on point with nutrition, no one wants to lose the momentum you have gained in pursuit of your goals, and you really don’t want to go backwards in your progress.


Dang it….I’m sick.  What should I do?


Here are a few thoughts on training when sick:

  1. Assess your symptoms. Lots of fitness resources talk about the “above the neck” rule.  Basically, if all your symptoms are above the neck (classic cold symptoms, headache, runny nose, sore throat, etc.), you should be OK to train.  You may want to decrease the volume or duration of your training session, however.  There is evidence that exercise can shorten the duration of a cold and that low-volume strength can actually be greater when fighting a cold. 
  2. However, if your symptoms include fever, body aches, chest congestion, or vomiting, you should probably stay home and rest. Drink plenty of fluids.
  3. IF you do go to the gym, plan to spend some time in the dry sauna following your workout. Being sick produces certain toxins in our bodies, and sweating them out can be beneficial.  Make sure you’re taking in adequate fluids, however.  
  4. Be considerate to others. NO ONE WANTS WHATEVER SICKNESS YOU HAVE.  If you’re sneezing or coughing all over the place, take precautions to minimize the spreading of germs.  Cover your mouth and nose.  Wash your hands.  If you must go to the gym, warn others not to get too close.


Some final thoughts:

-Don’t get sick. Especially at this time of year, make sure you’re washing your hands regularly.  You may even want to carry an anti-bacterial hand wash in your gym bag.

-Fresh fruits and vegetables are great immune boosters.
Some other products that can be helpful: Vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea. 

-These all can be beneficial for boosting one’s immune system.

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