Is It Better to Exercise or Rest When You’re Sick?
Article page |
Health page |
Fruits and Vegetables
General Knowledge |
Heroes & Incredible peoples
Diseases and Remedies |
List of diseases
By Dr. MercolaWhen you’re feeling under the weather, is it better to curl up in
bed for some rest or push yourself to exercise?
One of the benefits of being fit is that you can take time off
and recover and use the reserves that you have built up to help you
recover. It is kind of like having stored fat during times of
Your built up fitness levels will provide you with the immune
buffers and support to allow your body to effectively address the
illness. If you don’t stop exercising you can easily exceed your
body’s recovery capacity and actually get worse.
A simple guideline to follow is that if your body is under stress
when you’re sick, seek rest as your body mobilizes to fight off the
illness. Too much exercise, especially intense exercise, should
therefore be avoided, as it will place an additional stressful
burden on your already stressed system.
That said, moderate exercise, like walking, is generally fine, as
long as you are careful and listen to your body to make sure you
don’t overdo it.There are certain times when moderate exercise is
actually preferable when you’re sick as well.
When is it OK to Exercise While Sick?
If your symptoms are above your neck, it’s usually ok to
exercise, albeit at a lower intensity than you’re used to. This
includes symptoms such as:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
If you have enough energy to tolerate it, increasing your body
temperature by sweating from exercise will actually help to kill
many viruses. In fact, according to research, exercising with a cold
may be well advised. At the end of one 10-day trial, those who
exercised 40 minutes every-other day, at 70 percent of their maximum
heart rate, felt better than those who remained sedentary—even
though the clinical severity and duration of their symptoms were
The key to exercising when you’re sick is to do so carefully.
Over-exercising will place more stress on your body, which can
suppress your immune system, so you should keep the intensity of
your workouts on a moderate level if you're sick. So, you might just
go for a brisk walk if you are coming down with a cold, or simply
tone down your regular workout. As noted in Exercise and Sport
"Prolonged intense exercise causes immunosuppression,
whereas moderate-intensity exercise improves immune function and
potentially reduces risk and severity of respiratory viral
6 Surprising Times When a Workout Might do You Good
There are many surprising scenarios when, while you might be
tempted to lounge on the couch, exercise is actually just what the
doctor ordered. This includes:
- Recovering from Surgery
Hitting the gym after you've had minor surgery can be highly
beneficial, helping to both decrease side effects and get you
back into the swing of your daily life faster. You will, of
course, need to be mindful of the level of intensity and avoid
exercises that may stress a surgical incision or repair, but
generally speaking the sooner you can get moving after surgery,
- Cancer Patients
Exercising during and after cancer treatment can help reduce
your risk of dying from cancer; reduce your risk of cancer
recurrence; boost energy; and minimize the side effects of
conventional cancer treatment. A report by Macmillan Cancer
Support notes that cancer patients and cancer survivors should
exercise at least 2.5 hours a week,3
and cites an excerpt from the American College of Sports
Medicine consensus statement on exercise guidelines for cancer
survivors, which states:
"Exercise is safe both during and after most types of
cancer treatment... Patients are advised to avoid inactivity
and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible
after surgery, and during adjuvant cancer treatments."
- Osteoarthritis or Joint Pain
If you have
joint pain, exercise is a must; it helps prevent and relieve
joint pain through a number of mechanisms, including
strengthening key supportive muscles, restoring flexibility,
improving bone density and joint function, and facilitating
The notion that exercise is detrimental to your joints is a
misconception, as there is no evidence to support this belief.
Quite the contrary, actually, as inactivity promotes muscle
weakness, joint contractures, and loss of range of motion, which
can lead to more pain and loss of function, and even less
activity. To break this potentially devastating cycle, regular
exercise is essential.
If you have osteoarthritis or joint pain and you find that
you're in pain for longer than one hour after your exercise
session, you should slow down or choose another form of
exercise. Assistive devices are also helpful to decrease the
pressure on affected joints during your workout. You may also
want to work with a physical therapist or qualified personal
trainer who can develop a safe range of activities for you. If
the exercise causes pain that persists longer than several hours
it most likely was too much.
- Chronic Pain
Exercise can help with long-term pain relief for a variety of
conditions, including osteoarthritis, back and musculoskeletal
pain. Furthermore, because exercise often leads to improved
posture, range of motion and functionality of your body, it can
help treat the underlying source of your pain as well as help
prevent chronic back pain. Exercises that can be particularly
helpful for chronic pain include stretching, resistance
training, and swimming.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
If you have the lung disease COPD, exercise can help to
improve your circulation, helping your body to use oxygen more
efficiently. It may also help to strengthen your heart, improve
your symptoms, and boost your energy levels so you can perform
more daily activities without fatigue or becoming out of breath.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Dietary strategies are key for
healing irritable bowel syndrome at the foundational level,
however exercise can help improve IBS symptoms, as well. In one
study, exercise led to improvements in problems like cramps,
bloating, constipation and diarrhea, with, 43 percent of
exercisers showing a significant improvement in their symptoms.4
When Should You NOT Exercise While Sick?
It’s generally advised that you avoid exercise if you have
symptoms that are "below your neck," such as:
- Coughing or chest congestion
- Widespread body and muscle aches
- Vomiting, upset stomach and/or stomach cramps
But no matter what your symptoms, you need to be very careful and
listen to your body. If you don’t feel up to it, and all you want to
do is get some rest, then that’s what your body needs.
And I can’t stress enough that if you don’t feel well, you should
not do your full, normal exercise routine, as that could clearly
stress your immune system even more and prolong your illness if you
are not careful and wind up overdoing it.
High-intensity exercise like Peak Fitness should be avoided
when you’re sick, because any kind of intensive exercise boosts
production of cortisol, a stress hormone which inhibits the activity
of natural killer cells—a type of white blood cell that attacks and
rids your body of viral agents. This is why running a marathon can
actually increase your chances of getting sick shortly thereafter.
In fact, elite endurance athletes can suffer anywhere from two to
six times as many upper respiratory infections during a year,
compared to average, active individuals.5
If You’re Trading Your Workout for a Good Rest, Make Sure You’re
Doing This …
Feeling fatigued when you’re sick is your body’s way of telling
you to slow down so you get some much-needed rest while your body
heals. A good way to help the recovery process is to ground while
you are sleeping.
Grounding, or Earthing, is defined as placing one's bare skin on
the ground whether it be dirt, grass, sand or concrete (especially
when humid or wet). When you ground to the electron-enriched earth,
an improved balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous
The Earth is a natural source of electrons and subtle electrical
fields, which are essential for proper functioning of immune
systems, circulation, synchronization of biorhythms and other
physiological processes and may actually be the most effective,
essential, least expensive, and easiest to attain antioxidant. Your
immune system functions optimally when your body has an adequate
supply of electrons, which are easily and naturally obtained by
barefoot contact with the Earth.
When grounding is restored, many people report significant
improvement in a wide range of ailments, including chronic fatigue.
These changes are rapid and often occur within 30 minutes.
Obviously, most of us are not going to be comfortable sleeping
outside on the ground, so the alternative is to use a grounding or
Earthing pad, which allows you to get the benefits of the Earth's
electrons even if you're indoors, especially when you're sleeping.
If you’re not feeling well, grounding while you sleep is highly
recommended to help support your recovery.