Exercise is great for prevention, but is it lousy for therapy?
Experts agree, your immune system needs exercise to do its job better. Every time you exercise, you increase the circulation of important immune cells in your body, which fight infection and disease. But should you exercise when you’re sick? Let’s find out!
Can I exercise with a fever?
Have you heard the old wives’ tale, “if you have a fever, just sweat?” You might want to rethink that!
If you have a fever, your body is working overtime trying to fight the infection. Exercise places physical stress on the body that makes the job of the immune system even more challenging.
Evidence suggests that intense forms of exercise (CrossFit, long-distance running, HIIT) can briefly suppress your immune function. But in general, exercise is a great way to protect yourself from illness. However, once you feel bad, it’s a different story.
Can I exercise with the flu?
The consequences of exercising when you’re sick can have some dire consequences.
Worst of cases?
According to research, people who continue to exercise when they have the flu can develop chronic fatigue syndrome, a disorder characterized by extreme tiredness that can last for many months.
Exercising when you are sick reduces the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in your body. At the same time, it increases the stress hormone cortisol, which interferes with the ability of immune cells to fight infection.
The bottom line: If you have the flu, exercise is a bad idea.
What about post-flu workouts?
Health experts agree, after you recover from the flu, wait at least a full week before exercising again. Start with light walks or jogs and progress to more moderate workouts as the week progresses.
At the 2-week mark after the flu, you can go back to your normal training intensity, but only if you feel like it. And if you ever realize that you can get over it to feel better, don’t, it’s not worth it.
Can I exercise with a sore throat?
Exercise is generally okay if your signs and symptoms are above your neck: runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and mild sore throat. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, consider reducing the intensity and duration of your training.
But if any of your symptoms are below the neck — an upset stomach, dry cough, or chest congestion — don’t exercise.
Can I exercise with an upset stomach?
Nausea and diarrhea are two good reasons to skip exercise; It’s not like you really feel like doing it anyway. When you vomit or have diarrhea, your body becomes dehydrated. Exercising during this time accelerates dehydration.
Fortunately, most stomach bugs don’t last more than a day or two. Therefore, you can return to your usual exercise routine relatively quickly. Just be sure to drink plenty of fluids to replace what you lost when you got sick.
Just like a broken bone or sprained ligament, your body needs time to rest and fully heal after being sick. This way, you can cope with the rigors of exercise without breaking your body.
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