Run or rest: What’s best when you’re sick?

My whole life, whenever sick, I’ve debated with myself whether I should work out through the sickness or rest my body. This last week I was forced to ask myself this question for the umpteenth time. There are different schools of thought when it comes to this question: the school of sweating it out or the school of rest.

Let’s begin with the school of sweating it out.  Many of us have heard this, and I personally have done this many times. Even though a workout will make us feel better, there’s no truth to the “sweat it out” adage. The human body cannot “sweat out” toxins, infections, germs, and the lot. The job of getting rid of those things is left to the immune system. The immune system works best when it is not stressed. Exercise raises your heart rate and body temperature, both of which, in turn, stress your immune system.

Exercising when you have a fever is an emphatic “NO!” Your body temperature is already high, and exercise will only cause that temperature to keep rising, which is not good. You should also rest if you have some kind of stomach bug.  You never know when and where that bug will resurface. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

As a general rule, you should do what’s called the “above/below the neck” test.

  • Above the neck test – If your symptoms are above the neck, (e.g., runny nose, sinus congestion, sore throat) then it’s okay to exercise. You might want to bring the intensity and duration of the workout down to compensate for the symptoms.
  • Below the neck test – If your symptoms are below the neck, (e.g., upset stomach, chest congestion, hacking cough) then it is not in your best interest to exercise. In addition, it is definitely not a good idea to exercise if you’re experiencing body-wide muscle and joint aches.

Ultimately, the decision to exercise or rest comes down to a personal choice.  If you decide to workout, then you need to consider the intensity, duration, and type of exercises you will be doing. You might have to tone the intensity down. Also, consider the well being of others.  If you think that you might be contagious, take a towel with you to the gym. Wipe down all the equipment you have used; most, if not all, gyms have disinfectant spray bottles for public use. Or, maybe avoid the gym altogether and work out at home. If you decide to rest during your sickness, then, when you attempt to get back into your exercise routine again, ease back into it. Charging in like you weren’t sick might cause yourself to relapse and start feeling sick all over again. Once you’ve completely recovered, you should be back to your old form in no time.

If you have any questions or would like me to cover a certain topic, feel free to email me at [email protected]

By Román González

Posted by admin on Feb 4th, 2010 and filed under Health, In This Issue. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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