For some of us, taking time off from the gym when you’re under the weather is a blessing in disguise. But if you faithfully do yoga every day or can’t stand skip spinning class, you might be wondering: Can I still work out when sick?
It depends on your symptoms — and what kind of workout you’re doing. If your mom ever told you about the "above the neck" rule, well, she's right this time! This means that if your symptoms are above the neck, such as a mild sore throat, runny nose, or watery eyes, it’s okay to exercise — if you feel up to it.
However, if you’re experiencing symptoms below the neck, such as coughing, wheezing, diarrhea, or vomiting, take a break. Same thing goes, if you have a fever or you’re short of breath.
Here's why: Your body needs to use all its reserves to heal, and when you are dealing with a major infection, intense exercise can actually prolong your recovery. Plus, there are few red flags to watch for if you’re not feeling so hot while working out. If your muscles are feeling fatigued and achy, if your breathing is off, or if you feel feverish and weak, definitely stop and go home.
How Exercise Can Help
Certain kinds of calming exercises — like walking, stretching, and light yoga — may help ease certain conditions such as colds, menstrual cramps, or constipation. (See how CBD can help with menstrual cramps.) You'll probably want to avoid intense cardio or HIIT workouts, on the other hand.
Gentle exercise promotes blood flow and reduces stress on the body, so it can work harder to fight off infection. And if you’re mildly to moderately constipated, moving around can help get your digestive system back on track.
Also, heat may help you feel better — with a caveat. The idea that you can ‘sweat it out’ is a little bit of an old wives tale — you can’t ‘sweat out’ a virus. However, if you feel congested and the heat of a sauna or a hot yoga class helps you breathe easier, go for it.
It also may help prevent infections in the future: One 2017 study found that “frequent” sauna baths helped reduce the risk of respiratory conditions such as asthma or pneumonia. Plus, exercise in general helps build up your immunity, helping your body fight off illness and infection.
Precautions to Take Before Exercise
Remember: It’s not just about you! Stay home if you're contagious with a virus, a cough, or a cold. Plus, gyms are not the cleanest places to visit when you are sick, since your immune system is already being taxed.
When you’re under the weather, it’s a better idea to go for a walk outside or a do a home workout if possible. But if you do hit the gym, make sure not to leave kleenex lying around, wipe down machines, and cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze.
You also want to prep your body by providing it with the proper nutrients and hydration before a workout. Drink plenty of water, and consider coconut water or adding an electrolyte powder to your water when you’re sick.
Finally, taking the appropriate vitamins and supplements can help keep your body in tip-top shape. Check out Binto's personalized supplement packs, which can you help you stay well, and stay active, all winter long.