Exercise When Sick: Should You Sweat It Out?

We all know engaging in regular exercise is an excellent way to keep your body healthy, especially by reducing your risk of becoming sick in the first place by boosting your immune system.

But if you’re feeling tired and run down, can exercise actually make your symptoms worse? Or should you wait until you’ve completely recovered before getting back to the gym?

Like many things in life, moderation  is key. If your symptoms are above the neck – a runny nose, nasal congestion  or a tickle in your throat – you may still be able to persevere a workout, though it would be wise to tone it down a few notches.

If you’re also feeling more stressed than normal, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a light walk or yoga to help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which works to conserve energy and return the body to a state of “rest and digest” instead of “fight or flight.” Studies show that a 30- to 45-minute walk can boost the body’s immune system by increasing the circulation of natural killer (NK) cells that fight off viruses and bacteria. Exercise may even help you breathe deeper by opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion. But, if symptoms get worst, it’s always best to rest and recover.

But exercise can also hinder your immune system, in which case, it’s best to avoid strenuous and prolonged exercise as it will place an additional stress on your already run down system.

When is best to avoid exercise all together?

It is recommended not to exercise if you have a fever, stomach bug or flu symptoms (muscle aches) and wide-stead fatigue.

Bottom line:
Working out while sick is never fun, and although the most obvious method of boosting your depleted immune system is still rest, don’t neglect a nutrient-rich and balanced diet, ample shut-eye, and sound hygiene, such as hand washing.