When do you feel you’re too sick to exercise? Do you need to be bedridden? Is a cold enough to get you to rest instead of attacking your HIIT workout? Are you at an all-stop as soon as the first sniffle from seasonal allergies begins?
I have a few rules to help me to decide if I’m too sick to exercise. Most of them have to do with safety and ensuring that exercise won’t slow my healing.
When Am I Not Too Sick to Exercise?
Even though I don’t tend to feel all that motivated to exercise when I’m ill, I don’t tend to think I’m too sick to exercise unless I’m really, really sick. I will usually tone things down a little, but I won’t let it stop me altogether.
The reason is that studies show that if you exercise while sick, you can give your immune system a bit of a boost while helping to prevent getting sicker in the days ahead. A study in the Journal of medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that when you exercise through a common cold, there aren’t any negative effects on the severity or length of the illness.
To me, that means that unless I can’t even get out of bed, I’m not too sick to exercise!
How Do I Exercise While I’m Sick?
I typically tone things down when I’m sick. I may not be too sick to exercise, but that doesn’t mean that I want to wear myself down to the ground. I know that I need to have the energy to heal. I’m already usually slightly weak and winded when I’m ill. To me, this is a sign to keep things simple.
The first thing I want to point out is that I do not go to the gym when I’m sick. I may not be too sick to exercise, but that doesn’t mean I need to infect everyone around me. I’m a firm believer in trying to spread my illness as little as possible. If that means staying in my home like a hermit, so be it.
For that reason, I will do a yoga video, or I will go for a walk (treadmill or outside) for as long as it takes me to feel like I did some decent cardio. That’s usually around a half hour. Interestingly, when I have a cold, going for a walk is often one of the only times my nose isn’t stuffy. I feel like that’s a good indication that I’ve made the right choice.
As long as I’m still comfortable doing a workout, I will usually push myself to about the moderate intensity level. I leave the high intensity workouts for when I’m feeling like myself again. After all, the point is to stay fit, not to risk hurting myself or completely hating the entire workout! I want to get better and get back to loving my exercises again!