You’re on a roll!
You haven’t missed a workout in weeks and are finally starting to see results.
You’ve been eating healthy and making smart choices left and right.
This could be it. This could be the time you FINALLY stick with your new healthy lifestyle.
Then it happens.
You wake up one morning and feel a little “off”.
You had plans to crush a killer leg workout, but…
“Should you go to the gym if you don’t feel well?”
I know the last thing you want is to miss your workout. It’s practically the best part of your day!
But your decision to hit the gym could actually hurt your chances of recovering – and get others sick during the process.
The next time you’re feeling so-so, here’s some guidance (from your favorite bite-sized pharmacist) on what to do!
DON’T go to the gym if…
You have a fever, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Plain and simple.
Seriously, forget trying to “sweat it out” at the gym. NOT A SMART MOVE!
By working out, you increase your already high body temperature and create a perfect environment for infectious organisms to replicate inside your body.
Additionally, the immune system will be working overtime to clear your infection. It needs rest, not exercise, to recover.
I know it’s not what you want to hear… and I know it’s going to make you a cranky little fit chick, but find a comfy chair and watch some Netflix.
There aren’t many times I recommend you skip a workout, so enjoy your rest day without an ounce of guilt. Honestly, you’re doing your body – and yourself – a favor by staying home and relaxing.
Chances are you probably feel like crap anyway. And if you feel like crap, you’re bound to have a crappy workout. It’s one of those situations where you’d do your body more harm than good.
It’s not all bad news though!
On a positive note, studies have shown fit people recover faster from illness than those who don’t exercise.
Take for example this 12-week study that looked at the number of days fit people (≥ 5 days/week aerobic exercise) verses inactive individuals (≤ 1 day/week) suffered from a cold.
The number of sick days was reduced by ALMOST HALF in those who exercised.
Your lifestyle is already going to help you get better faster. Don’t stress your immune system by pushing yourself through an intense workout when you aren’t 100% healthy.
So now we know when not to hit the gym (aka when we have a fever or flu-like symtoms), but there’s also some instances when the gym can help you feel better!
DO go to the gym if …
Your symptoms are limited to your nose and mouth.
When your symptoms are above the neck, such as congestion, sneezing, and/or a sore throat, then it’s typically ok to exercise.
But that doesn’t mean you should go to the gym AND complete the hardest, most challenging workout ever.
Instead, take it easy.
Studies have shown that moderate-intensity exercise improves immune function, while prolonged intense exercise has been associated with immunosuppression.
Don’t stress your immune system!
Do some steady paced cardio. Jump on the elliptical or stationary bike. Maybe even try some inclined walking to give your booty a boost!
If at any point during your workout, you start to feel worse instead of better, then call it quits. It’s always better to play it safe.
Once you start to feel better, slowly increase the intensity of your workout (key word – SLOWLY). If you were sick for 5 days, then take about 5 days to return to your normal level of training.
Again, slow and steady wins the race… and prevents you from getting sick again!
As one last note, don’t forget to be courteous at the gym. Wash your hands before using equipment and wipe down machines after use. This way no one can blame you for getting everybody else sick!
Key Takeaway: If your symptoms are limited to above the neck, then it’s ok to participate in light exercise. When you have a fever, feel fatigued, experience trouble breathing, or are vomiting, then your immune system requires rest NOT exercise.
1. Nieman DC, Henson DA, Austin MD, Sha W. Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults. Br J Sports Med. 2011;45(12):987-92.
2. Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA. Exercise and respiratory tract viral infections. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2009;37(4):157-64.