After months of meticulous planning and preparation you have been following a fitness routine diligently for the last couple of weeks. Be it the rain or sun, night shift or morning shift, festivities at home or yet another normal day you have made every effort to visit the gym, go for a walk or do physical exercise despite your busy schedule. But what if you are down with a running nose or pretty bad cold? This is nothing like your muscle cramp, joint pain or some other serious health problem that there is no choice but to take rest. After all, it’s the common cold and cough with which all of us do all our jobs irrespective of our body condition. If we were to abstain from work just because of a simple cold most of us would not be able to attend office or school 25% times. But this is not sitting at a desk and hitting off the laptop keys or trying to listen to your Mam in the classroom in between your comfy sleeping hours! Exercising needs much energy, strength and will power to perform and how many of you think that you can survive a vigorous exercise session with sickness?
Exercising for or Against the Immune System?
The rainy season is here and the doctor’s clinic is overflowing with patients suffering from common cold. It’s no secret that exercising is recommended for a great immune system but what remains unclear to many is whether exercising when sick can affect the immune system! If you suffer from heart disease or diabetes it is crucial that you take extra care of your body to avoid glitches in blood glucose or pressure levels due to overstrain. But logically, it seems to be ok to exercise when you have cold or sore throat. While it is not an outright yes, it depends on a general rule postulated by doctors: train moderately if the symptoms are above the neck such as a runny nose or sore throat but if you have symptoms below the neck such as coughing, chest tightness, joint pain or back aches it is best to avoid exercising for a couple of days. Having the flu or fever and trying to exercise is a completely bad idea! This brings us to an important part of discussion where many athletes have this misconception that exercising while having fever helps them sweat out and relieve the pain. Already our immune system fights hard to ward off flu and fever and when we try to exercise we are adding more stress on top of it and making the immune system’s job much more difficult. It was in 1990s that researchers in Australia found evidence that athletes who continued to exercise while having flu developed a form of chronic fatigue syndrome due to attack of the immune system (https://time.com/5167299/should-you-exercise-when-you-are-sick/).
In times of sickness, there is a general feeling of tiredness and lethargy experienced by the patient which makes him/her abstain from going to work or doing chores. Exercising at this point of time is not recommended as training will make you feel more tired and fatigue might set in. Muscles ache, body pain is felt greatly and general weakness is observed. It is always better to wait for an entire week before starting to exercise not at your regular pace but slowly. Start with a short walk, go for brisk walks, proceed to moderate-intensity exercises and finally get back to your exercise schedule once you are back to your own self. Just like a fracture or a sprain your body does need the time and rest to get back to its usual self before it can start acting as per your whims and fancies.
Listen to your body. It is not a strict rule that you should be in bed all day just because of a light sneeze but you should also realize that you can’t have the same amount of energy as you would if you were not sick! You might be a big-hearted person but it is not necessary that you should spread the infection to others in the gym too. Rather, go for a walk or a light job when down with a sneeze or cold.
Exercising is good for the mind as well as the body. Experts recommend doing at least 150 minutes of physical activity to stay healthy while we need to exercise even more to lose weight. Despite all this, when experts do recommend abstaining from exercising in times of sickness it is always better to follow it and take care of our health. After all, our body is the only place we’ve got to live a healthy life!
Should I work out when I am Sick? https://www.popsci.com/work-out-sick/
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.