It’s that time of year where every man and his toddler seems to have a runny nose, sore throat, or the full blown nasty flu. When you’re not feeling 100% and it’s cold outside, snuggling on the couch under the doona can seem a more attractive option than hitting the gym. However, there is evidence to suggest that you shouldn’t rush back to bed at the first sniffle if you want to get back to your old self quickly.
Does a workout help or harm when you’re feeling a little under the weather? While you should always chat with your doctor if in doubt, there are a few loose rules around when it’s ok to go to the gym, and when should you stay away.
Being fit and active is a protective factor against colds
One of the best things you can do to guard against colds and flu, aside from a diet with loads of vegies and fruit, is to exercise regularly. A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that physically active adults with a higher aerobic fitness level were knocked down by colds less often, and when they did, their symptoms were less severe than those experienced by their sedentary counterparts.
The psychological impact of exercise
If you are just feeling generally “blah”, and over winter, and a little bit sniffly and sorry for yourself, exercising really is the best thing for you. The psychological lift experienced from an intense workout is proven. Don’t wait tofeel like exercising.
When I’m feeling down, the only sure-fire way to make myself feel better is with a heart-pumping, endorphin-releasing session in the studio. It sets the tone for the rest of my day and makes me feel more in control, and my clients report the same effect. When you least feel like training is often when you get the most out of it.
The above-the-neck rule
If your symptoms are above the neck – dry cough, sneezing runny nose – please, feel free to carry on with your scheduled workout. Below-the-neck symptoms like a funny tummy, chest congestion or aching muscles probably warrant some rest. Full-blown diarrhea and vomiting? Stay away!
Use your common sense and be informed by the severity of your symptoms. Above-the-neck symptoms like sinusitis can still be nasty and call for some time off.
When you’re starting to feel cold or flu symptoms coming on
It’s ok to go ahead with your planned training session if you’re starting to feel like you have a cold coming on. However, take it easy, and monitor your symptoms. If you feel worse after your workout, then it’s probably worth taking a couple of days off from the gym or reducing the intensity of your workouts until you feel better.
In the midst of a cold or flu
When you’re really feeling miserable with fatigue, fever and widespread muscle aches, lots of rest and fluid rather than a workout are what you need.
Don’t “sweat out” a fever
If you’re experiencing fever and pain, bed rest is the best treatment. Exercising during a fever can actually exacerbate and prolong your symptoms, so it’s best to stay away from the gym (although we’ll miss you)!
Tune into your body and use your head
Common sense serves us well here: if you are physically capable of doing your workout, then go ahead and do it. If you aren’t up to it, then take a day off. Our bodies are very efficient at telling us what we can do and what we can’t.
Don’t share the love
At New Image, we are always vigilant about cleaning equipment after use and ensuring that our hygiene practices reduce the risk of the spread of infection, and we really step this up during cold and flu season. However, if you’re really crook, it’s always best to stay away from the gym, both for your own wellbeing and to avoid passing on your illness to your gym buddies.