The Case for Working Out While Sick
Ever since I became a parent, I have been more frequently sick than I ever was before. And with the addition of children, any real downtime to recover, even with a helpful partner, is significantly diminished. Far from anguishing in this new reality of my life, it actually has shown me that I am stronger than I realized and can push past momentary feelings of weakness and accomplish everything I need to do--to include exercising. Obviously if you are seriously ill this does not apply, but if you have a head cold, as I did this past week/weekend, read on.
Using the above-the-neck rule (i.e. stuffy nose, headache, sore throat) you can absolutely incorporate some moderate exercise while sick. If you are coughing heavily, or have ebola, you should probably rest and/or seek immediate medical attention. Deathly illnesses aside, moderate workouts while sick will immediately benefit you in three ways:
- Boost your mood: You feel terrible but you just worked out! You're a bad ass, and now you have a rush of endorphins to carry you through the rest of the day.
- Detoxify: Sweating and drinking water while working out aids in more quickly expelling whatever is taking unwelcome residence in your system.
- Increase immunity: Moderate exercise while sick has been shown to stimulate the immune system and speed recovery. Plus, chronic resistance training has been shown to strengthen the innate immune system (nonspecific defense mechanisms that come into play immediately or within hours of an antigen's appearance in the body. These mechanisms include physical barriers such as skin, chemicals in the blood, and immune system cells that attack foreign cells in the body.)
I personally feel better when I can move my body in some way when I'm sick, even at a reduced level. Furthermore, the training I did over the past weekend ensures that I don't lose any momentum for the week ahead. Ultimately, you need to listen to your body, but take into consideration how beneficial a little activity can be the next time you're feeling under the weather.