Should you work out when you’re sick?

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By Mary Ward

It’s a common dilemma at this time of year, when Strepsils are dealt like daytime party drugs and a travel pack of Kleenex can make you the most popular person in the room: should you skip the gym if you have a sniffle?

Can I sweat this out? You ask yourself, unable to remember in your snot-ridden state whether that was a remedy you learnt about in high school science or medieval history.

Will it make things worse? You query, weighing up a class late cancellation fee against the strong allure of your bed, takeaway, and the streaming service of your choice.

For GP, Dr Deborah Sambo, whether she advises a patient to skip the gym ultimately depends on how sick they are, and how intense their exercise regime is.

“I generally advise my patients to listen to their bodies. If they’re really sick, it makes logical sense for them to take it easy until they’ve recovered.”

However, she says there is normally no reason why someone who has “just a simple head cold” (i.e. just a blocked nose and/or a sore throat, with no heavy sweating, muscle soreness, fever, vomiting or diarrhea) can’t continue on with their regular daily exercise.

“Being out there in the fresh air helps you to recover better. The blood circulation, the boost to your immune system, it will help you to recover faster,” she says.

“It doesn’t really compromise your body that much.”

As for more aggressive forms of exercise, exercise physiologist and personal trainer Veronika Larisova says a risk of injury should deter people from pushing it when they’re unwell.

“When we are down with cold and flu, our ligaments and tendons are more susceptible to injury due to inflammation and other factors,” she says, adding that running, jumping and the explosive exercises associated with training programs like HIIT (high-intensity interval training) should be put on hold until you’re feeling better.

“If you are not feeling too weak and achy, you could do some low load slow exercises such as gluteal and leg strengthening exercises using a loop resistance band or ankle weights, pilates or yin yoga.”

Mary Ward is a Lifestyle reporter for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.

 

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