Flu season is still going, and colds still circulate throughout the summer.
The bad news is that you can get sick at any time of year, which can really mess up your workout routine. Is it safe to workout with a cold? What about working out with the flu?
Sometimes it’s an obvious answer, like when you’re so sick that you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck and you’re unable to get out of bed: there’s no pushing through that for a workout. How about when you start feeling better? Or what if you just have a minor cold? There are some factors to consider to get your answer.
Everything depends on your symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have a minor cold with symptoms “above the neck” (runny nose, sore throat, etc,) you can still do some light exercise. Since your immune system is using up energy to fight the illness, try a less-intense workout than usual.
Go for a walk instead of a run or do fewer repetitions of a move. While it may be safe for you to get some moderate exercise, if you’re in the first two to three days of your cold (when you’re still contagious,) be considerate to your fellow athletes and stay out of the gym.
No one wants to catch the germs you’ll leave on the equipment and door handles, so either take a couple of rest days or do a few moves at home until the contagious period passes.
If you have a fever, you need to get back into bed. Your body needs all of the energy it has to fight that fever and infection, so don’t waste any on working out. Working out could actually prolong the illness or make it worse, so let your immune system do its thing.
You will likely feel so crummy that working out won’t be an option anyway. Wait until you’ve been fever-free for at least 48 hours before trying to work out again.
Other symptoms that should give your workout a red light? Anything below the neck: chest congestion, upset stomach, widespread aches, etc. Like with a fever, wait until these symptoms have been gone for 48 hours.
Everyone needs a rest day now and then, so taking a few days off to fight an illness shouldn’t have any major effects on your fitness level. However, if you’re laid out for a week with an intense flu, you could lose up to 30 percent of your fitness level. If you’re coming off of a bad illness, you’ll need to ease back into exercise once your symptoms have been gone for a few days. Start slow and do about two-thirds of the reps you would normally do.
A light yoga class is a great way to ease back into exercise; all of the controlled breathing will get oxygen moving well into your muscles again.
A light cardio class is also a good stepping stone back into your workout regime, but remember to take breaks when you need them – there’s no need to push yourself too hard, too fast. For other exercises, do about two-thirds of the repetitions you would normally do until you can work back up to your usual amount. For rock climbers, try out some easy walls and see how you feel.
Exercise is a great way to stay healthy, but you have to give your immune system time to do its part of keeping you healthy. So take a few days off to fight illnesses; in the long run, it could save you many extra days of illness!