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It’s That Time of the Year – Should You Work Out When Sick?

by Matt Weik

Sniffles… Coughs… Congestion… You know what time it is—time to carry around the hand sanitizer! Colder months of the year tend to be a breeding ground to spread the common cold and flu. Yet, you don’t want to go all anti-social on the world and close everyone off, worried that you’ll get sick. So, you need to prepare yourself. In order to do so, you need to wash your hands regularly, maintain a healthy diet full of micronutrients, grab some extra vitamin C, and try to stay away from anyone who is currently sick.

A common place where germs and illness are spread are in the gym. People want to sweat out their illness by engaging in resistance or cardio training. Some sit in the sauna in hopes that they can sweat it out. This brings up the question, should you work out when sick?

What’s up, Doc?

If you’re sick, you should head to the doctor to see if it’s anything of concern. Is it transmittable or are you safe to be around others? Get the medications you need to beat it quickly so you can move on from it and feel better. And most of all, listen to your doctor. If he says to rest, do so. If he says you shouldn’t go to work or the entire office will get sick, take some time off to Netflix and chill.

You used Doctor Google

Have you ever had some random symptom that caused you to not feel well so you went on Google to try and figure out what it was? In almost all instances, the one thing that comes up is cancer. I have a cough. It could be cancer. My ear hurts. It could be cancer. I feel exhausted. It could be cancer. Moral of the story? STOP USING GOOGLE! It’s not going to accurately diagnose your illness—that’s what health professionals are there for.

But seriously, if your symptoms are enough to make you want to open up your laptop or start pecking away at your phone for answers, just go to the doctor and be done with it and know for sure. If the symptoms aren’t serious and resemble a common cold, grab some over the counter medication and follow the directions.

Should you exercise?

This is a tough one. Personally, I like to allow my body to have all means necessary to kill off anything I might have picked up from someone. So, I like to rest and allow my body to fight off the cold, flu, or whatever nasty bug I picked up. If I’m feeling a little better, I might do some light weights or some cardio just to prevent myself from going stir-crazy. Mind you, I have my own private gym, so no one will be working out around me that I could potentially get sick. I also make sure to wipe down my equipment as well so that anyone else who works out after me won’t become infected.

Something else you can do is assess your symptoms. What I mean by this is, what area are you feeling like the walking dead? Is it above the neck or below? Anything below the neck, definitely stay away from the gym. This means coughing, diarrhea, stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, fever, or any other ache or pain (think flu symptoms). If you have anything above the neck such as a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, or sniffling, play it by ear. If you’re up for a workout, then try to get one in if you really need to. But again, I’d recommend taking it easy and not exercising if you’re asking for my honest opinion.

One thing that you need to remember is, when you’re sick, many times we become dehydrated depending on our symptoms. If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, you’re going to already be losing water. Sweating on top of those symptoms are only going to make things worse and could lead to dehydration.

Think about everyone else at the gym

Just because you potentially caught a bug from the gym, does not mean it’s ok to go back and share it. Sharing is not caring in this case. If you’d get (or are) pissed off thinking about someone else next to you coughing, sneezing, and looking like a zombie, then your answer on if you should go to the gym is an easy one. Skip it.

Soon enough you will be feeling better and back to 100% where you can hit up the gym and unleash hell upon those weights. But, until then, chillax. If you are ready to tear down the walls of your house due to extended periods of time indoors, then try a home workout. You don’t need fancy weights in order to get in a good workout and work up a sweat. Or, if you wanted to get outside and get some fresh air (assuming it’s not freezing outside, icy, or snow-covered), go for a walk around the block.

Whether you go to the gym or are exercising at home, monitor your symptoms. If you are feeling worse, stop. There’s no reason to push yourself if you aren’t able to recovery properly due to being sick. Resting could even help improve your strength! Have you ever been sick, took a full week or two off, and then went back to the gym to find you’re actually stronger than before you got sick? That’s because your body had ample time to fully recover from both the illness and the workouts you were putting it through. Time off isn’t always a bad thing. It’s good to incorporate time off every now and again for both mental and physical health. Get better. Feel better. So you can get back into the gym and get after it.

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