exercise if I'm sick

Should I exercise if I’m sick?

Winter is well and truly upon us, and with that comes a spike in colds, bugs and illnesses doing the rounds. If you’re not feeling great, you’re probably wondering “should I exercise if I’m sick?”.

So, should you?

As an exercise physiologist, I regularly get asked what to do about exercise when you feel yourself getting sick. I know how hard it can be to get into a good routine, so understand the dilemma!

Should you try and “sweat it out”?

Should you bunker down and rest?

Generally, I advise a conservative approach. These are my 3 tips:

Focus on sleep

Although I go on about this often, I up the ante if a client mentions they’re starting to feel unwell. Whether you’re feeling a bit run down, have a scratchy throat or are just feeling more aches and pains than usual, it’s important to make sure you’re getting adequate sleep. You want your body to have the best chance of fighting a bug, and giving your immune system adequate sleep is a great place to start.

Still want to exercise? Lower the intensity.

If you’re worried about skipping your workout, turn the intensity down. Normally go to a boxing class? Try a light walk instead. Normally like a high intensity strength session? Try a body weight session with ample rest.

Whilst your body is trying to fight an illness, it will struggle to manage if it’s also helping you recover from a tough exercise session. I’m obviously a big fan of exercise wherever possible, but would generally advise a session targeting mobility (with a reduced intensity) if you aren’t feeling quite right.

If in doubt, rest.

Seems simple, but it’s a good rule of thumb. If you are unsure about how you will cope during or post the exercise session, then I would generally advise to rest. Resting for a few days can do wonders.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s worth skipping a workout or two if it means you can recover from that impending cold or bug quicker. Keep up any incidental activity that you have in your daily routine, and then make a comeback to training once you have fully recovered.

Want more advice?

Managing your training loads and following an exercise program designed specifically for your needs is a great way to make sure you’re not overtraining and becoming rundown. If you need advice, a university-qualified exercise professional is the best person to help.

To find your local expert, click here.

Happy training 🙂

exercise physiologist

Sarah is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at BJC Health.