Exercising When Sick
It can be difficult to know how to approach physical activity when you’re sick. In this resource, we’ll discuss why it’s usually okay to exercise even if you’re under the weather. We’ll also offer some tips for staying active if you choose to, and clarify when it’s best to see your doctor before continuing with your regular routine.
To Move, or Not to Move?
- In most cases, you are still safe to move when sick. Recent research shows that even vigorous exercise does not suppress the immune system, and can actually help protect you from illnesses that can be passed on.1
- Refer to the section below for symptoms that indicate you should avoid exercise until you’ve recovered or are cleared by a doctor.
- It’s also ok to rest! Take the time you need to recover.
- You may be worried about falling out of your routine or losing the results you’ve worked hard to achieve. Know that if you need to take a step back, there is always time to get back into it. We're in this for the long haul, and you have already shown you are capable of sticking with it!
When to see your Doctor
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, refrain from activities that significantly increase your heart rate or body temperature until you see your doctor.2,3
- Fever above 100.4°
- Abnormal, widespread muscle aches & fatigue
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Very heavy cough, difficulty breathing
Tips for Staying Active
If you are feeling up to it, you can continue exercising while you recover. Here are some tips to keep in mind if so:
- Do what you can. Even if you aren’t feeling up to a full workout, avoid complete bed rest and look to keep moving. Throw in a few quick sets of any of your favorite exercises throughout your day!
- To help yourself stay in your routine, do something active at the same time of day you usually exercise.
- Consider decreasing the intensity and duration of your aerobic sessions. For example, if you usually run for 15 minutes, try instead walking briskly. For weighted exercises, try lowering the weight and reps per set.
- Your Hinge Health exercise therapy provides an easy way to get quick, quality low-intensity exercise. Your coach can provide modifications for any exercise in your playlists that may be more difficult or feel less comfortable.
Many beneficial practices for general health can also help us when we are sick. Sufficient sleep, healthy eating, exposure to sunlight, and positive emotions all support a swift and steady recovery.4, 5, 6 Here are some ways to help yourself continue prioritizing your well-being in these areas:
- Commit to a bedtime that will ensure you get at least 8 hours of sleep
- Get outside for some fresh air & sunlight at least once per day
- Call a friend or family member who you enjoy connecting with
The Journey Continues
It’s normal for our routines to change when circumstances shift in life. What matters most is that we continue doing what we can during these periods. Then, when you’re feeling well enough again, look to get back into your normal exercise routine. It may be challenging after taking time off, but with consistent steps, you will be back to where you were very soon! Remember, your coach is here to help you get back on track if you need the extra support.
- Campbell, J. P., & Turner, J. E. (2018). Debunking the myth of exercise-induced immune suppression: redefining the impact of exercise on immunological health across the lifespan. Frontiers in immunology, 9, 648. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5911985/
- How Long Should I Wait after the Flu before Resuming Exercise?” Harvard Health Publishing, Dec. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-long-should-i-wait-after-the-flu-before-resuming-exercise.
- Laskowski, Edward R. “Tips for Working out with a Cold.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 Feb. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20058494.
- Bryant, P. A., Trinder, J., & Curtis, N. (2004). Sick and tired: does sleep have a vital role in the immune system?. Nature Reviews Immunology, 4(6), 457. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/nri1369
- Slusky, D., & Zeckhauser, R. J. (2018). Sunlight and protection against influenza (No. w24340). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from https://www.nber.org/papers/w24340
- Cohen, S., Alper, C. M., Doyle, W. J., Treanor, J. J., & Turner, R. B. (2006). Positive emotional style predicts resistance to illness after experimental exposure to rhinovirus or influenza A virus. Psychosomatic medicine, 68(6), 809-815. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17101814