Posted on February 12 2019
It’s February, and if you’re struggling with anything from a nasty case of the sniffles to a full-on flu or fever, you’re not alone. Dark, cold days are famous for weakening the immune system and spreading germs all over the place. And it’s not fun for anybody.
While there’s a common narrative that the speediest way to clear up any illness is to curl up on the couch with chicken soup, a giant bottle of water, and a Netflix binge, that’s not always the case. Especially if you’re someone who thrives on a regular exercise routine, quitting it altogether the second you get a cold can sometimes do more harm than good.
“I like to tell my clients that light movement can actually help you kick your cold, and give you a mood and energy boost to boot,” explains Michelle C.
That being said, there are times when exercising while sick is decidedly an absolutely terrible idea. Let’s take a closer look.
When you should ditch the yoga pants and put on the sweatpants
So, when will exercising while sick make the whole thing worse? As a rule of thumb, if your illness is above the chest — think a cough or cold — you can work out. If have the flu, you should stay away from exercise altogether.
“When you have the flu or a fever, your body needs one thing: rest,” says Cady. “Lie in bed and sleep, sleep, sleep. Your body needs all its resources to heal.”
It’s also worth noting that if you exercise at a gym or other studio, showing up sick isn’t exactly polite — even if you only have a cold, coughing or sneezing your way through a class can get other people sick. So if you suspect that you’re still on the contagious side of an illness, it’s probably best to go for a brisk walk around your neighborhood or take an at-home yoga flow.
The type of exercise that can help you get better
Of course, not all forms of exercise are created equal — especially when you’re sick. According to Cady, the most important thing is to keep moving your energy around and not stay stagnant, but it’s also important to go easy when you’re not feeling your best.
“I recommend my health coaching clients go for long walks to get fresh air, hit up a slow flow yoga class, or go to their favorite workout,” she says. “But I also recommend that they keep it at 50 percent intensity.”
In other words, high-intensity bootcamps and giving your workouts 110 percent is not a good idea. “That will only work against you and keep you sicker for longer,” explains Cady.
So, if you’ve been nursing a runny nose and you’re itching to get out there and move a bit, good news: you can! And it will probably help you get better faster.