Getting sick sucks, there are no two ways about it. Losing a few days to the couch is never convenient, and can cause havoc with your social calendar, work commitments and workout schedule.
But, not all illnesses are the same, and there’s a huge difference between a slight case of the sniffles and full-blown flu. When is it ok to sweat it out, and when should you head for the duvet?
When it’s bad:
A decent workout, where you’re sweating, breathing heavy and putting strain on your muscles, creates a stress response in your body.
When we’re in good health, this stress is a good thing. Our bodies are forced to adapt to the stress, which is precisely why we get fitter and stronger the more we workout.
But, when we’re sick, the stress of a tough workout can be more than our immune systems can handle. You could do real damage to your body if you try and push it at a time when it’s already under the strain of battling a severe illness.
When it’s good:
Surprisingly, in cases of mild sickness, the right kind of exercise can actually help you feel better and strengthen your immunity. Non-strenuous exercises like walking, some types of yoga, tai chi, and qigong, can help get your circulation moving, get you breathing deeply which can help to clear sinuses, and can help your body to de-stress.
The golden rule:
When trying to decide whether or not to attempt some light exercise, most experts recommend using the ‘neck rule’. That is, if your symptoms are confined to the neck and up – so, sore throat, sinus congestion, sniffles and headaches – light exercise should be ok. Anything below the neck – bronchial, stomach related, achy limbs – best to stick to the couch.
As always though, listening to your own body is the most important rule. Even if your illnesses seem mild, your body will tell you if it’s not up for it.