How sick is too sick to exercise

Fine line to exercising when one is feeling ill.

With flu season around the corner as well as the coronavirus pandemic which has taken the world by storm, many of you exercise “fanatics” are probably wondering “how sick is too sick to exercise?”

The general public commonly believes that if you are sick, exercise will boost your immune system and speed up the rate of recovery.  Yet, when speaking to medical professionals, they will disagree with this understanding. There is strong evidence to support that if you are experiencing flu like symptoms (fever, severe aches in joints and muscles, pain and tiredness around the eyes, weakness or fatigue, warm flushed skin, red watery eyes, head ache, dry cough, sore throat and runny nose), exercise will more than likely make you feel worse.

There is a fine line when it comes to exercise and your immune system. Research have discovered there to be a strong link between regular and moderate exercise to a strong immune system, and a link between too much intense exercises’ and decreased immunity. These links should be a guideline to the type of exercises’ one should be doing with flu season just around the corner. It is recommended that regular and moderate exercises’ should be performed as opposed to high intensity exercise.

There is a general rule to consider when are sick and have flu lick symptoms: “Neck up or neck down rule”.

If you are experiencing symptoms from the neck up (head aches, runny nose, and a mild cough), you can perform moderate exercise with caution.  While mild exercise can help boost your immune system, if you are already sick and have flu it is suggested to cut back on your workload. Physicians suggest that you cut back to one third of your normal work rate.

It is of the utmost importance to watch out for warning signs.

• If you are having difficulty breathing during or after exercise, cease what you are doing and take a couple days off to recover. 

If you feel worse following the exercise bout, you should give yourself a couple days rest to recover.

• If your symptoms are neck down (deep cough, fever and/or muscle and joint pain) you should cease to partake in exercise.

A fever is a warning sign from your body that you are battling a viral or bacterial infection, and exercise may put additional stress on your body resulting in dehydration. This will most likely prolong the length of the infection and delay your recovery process. When it comes down to making good life choices, sleep and rest is considered the best choice.

The bodies immune system functions best when it is not stressed or in overdrive. The best advice to give someone is to “rest your body when you have the flu”. This will speed up your recovery process, as you need to allow your body to adjust to the additional stress of the infection.

A good example of this is say you are an engineer with 10 builders and you want to build a road. You are going to want all 10 builders working on that road to speed up productivity and the end result. Yet if additional tasks need to be completed, you are going to send a couple of your builders off to help complete these other tasks. This will inevitably decrease the rate of production and prolong the completion of the road.

If you take this example and compare it to your immune system, your body is the engineer and your immune system is the builders who work for you. When you are sick fighting an infection, this is placing a stress on your body, which your workers need to fight to speed up the rate of recovery. Yet, if you are performing exercise, this is placing an additional stress on your body, and now some of your builders will have to be sent off the road to work on this stress. Ultimately decreasing the productivity rate and the end product, and this will delay your recovery.

Bottom line is the best way to speed up recovery, is to sleep and rest. This will help increase the productivity of your workers, and inevitably speed up your recovery.

Professional athletes are the perfect example to consider. When they are ill, they will take off a couple days to recover. As they know once back in the program, the body will quickly recover back to its old self.

It is important to be considerate for your fellow exercisers who train around you. Flu and now the corona virus pandemic is highly contagious and you can affect other people up to 7 days after symptoms have passed. You should therefore wait until you are feeling completely replenished and more energetic before returning to activity.

Your body is a beautiful creation, and it has many warning signs to alert you. The best advice one can give is to listen to your body, it is the best and most trust worthy indicator as to weather you should exercise.

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