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Feeling Ill? Exercise Do’s and Don'ts

You’re tired and achy. You must be getting a cold or maybe even the flu. Should you work extra hard in the gym to build up your immunity, shift your workout to a lower intensity or skip exercise altogether until the bout passes?

Most of us get hit with allergies, colds and other minor illnesses throughout the year, but few solid rules exist regarding exercise and feeling sick while many misconceptions prevail.

Before we get into the rules, I need to shatter one major confusion out there: Exercising will boost your immune system. Well, kind of. Actually exercise immediately lowers your immune system and this is why you want to be very careful when exercising at the possible start of an illness.

When your body is at full health, the lowered immune system is not a problem and yes this stress on it will ultimately allow it to become stronger over months of good exercise. Yet, if you are beginning to become sick or feel the signs of an illness, exercise can make what would have been a mild bout more serious.

So exercise to build your immune system when healthy, but the next time you're sick, refer to these do's and don'ts to help determine whether working out will help or hurt your condition.

1. DO a check of your symptoms first. If you have above the neck signs, such as a runny nose, sneezing, or a sore throat, moderate exercise is generally safe as long as you do not have a fever. You can resume intense workouts as soon as symptoms disappear. If you have below the neck signs, such as extreme tiredness, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, swollen lymph glands, or a hacking cough, allow at least two weeks before returning to intense training. 

2. DON'T exercise with a fever. Fever (a body temperature above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) signifies you are doing battle with a virus. Exercising under these conditions increases risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and even heart failure. 

3. DON'T infect or become infected. Be alert to air-quality conditions at your training facility. During cold and flu seasons, exercise during less-crowded hours to avoid catching or transmitting viruses. Consider outdoor activities if weather conditions permit. 

4. DON'T let a temporary illness stop you permanently. Focus on flexibility, stress management, and mind-body awareness during down times. Moreover, plan how to resume your activity program as soon as you can rather than letting yourself drift into sedentary habits. 

5. DO return to exercise when you're ready. Making up for time missed in the gym can drain your immune system all over again. Exercise for two days at a lower intensity for each day you were sick. Give your body the time it needs to recover. 

6. DON'T hesitate to consult your doctor. Even if an illness is minor, check with your physician if you are seriously concerned. As always, better safe than sorry.

Diverge Personal Training Gym opened in 2008, yet it has had its roots within the Hillcrest neighborhood for over 10 years. Co-owners Brian White and Derek Heintz have been helping the community with their fitness goals since 1998. They take great pride in the fact that they have created a fun and distinct training facility that fuses both traditional and modern styles of training. They have also created an excellent team of top notch trainers with many years of experience.