Should you exercise when you’re ill?


Obviously with the bug I’ve got I don’t have a choice and the thought of exercising is the last thing on my mind bu, if it was a cold what should I do for the best? Sit and feel sorry for myself and wait until it goes away or venture out to the gym scaring the public with my attractive cold ridden- face?!!

You’d be surprised at the amount of people who turn up to the gym or studio sessions coughing so much their heads are in danger of exploding, streaming noses and sneezing their germs over all of the equipment. “I‘mb here to swead id oud, cough cough, splutter splutter” No, you’re here to give it to all of us!

The immune system

Everyday our immune system acts as our own personal military: on patrol keeping enemy germ invaders out. Without this we would be constantly ill. We develop our immunity from our childhood, when we have an illness such as chicken pox our immune system actually has a memory and we become immune to getting it again. How clever is that?!

Regular exercise helps to keep our immune system healthy. Studies have found that people who are active 1 – 3 times a week are healthier than people who are inactive. The same study found that people who over -train have an increased risk of being ill; a marathon runner is more susceptible to picking up germs 72 hours after their run as this can suppress the immune system.

So, should we exercise when we’re ill?

Using a scale from the fitness industry to work out a Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) level from 0 – 10; 0 would equate to resting in bed, 10 would be exhausted, ready to drop. If we workout at a hard intensity of level 8 we will be sweating, breathing heavily and feeling tired. At this level we will be experiencing a stress response in our body. When we’re healthy this is what makes us fitter and stronger but, when we’re ill the stress of a hard workout can be more than our immune system can handle. This can cause us to prolong the illness or to cause the existing condition to get worse.

The first sign of a sniffle isn’t a reason to reach for the duvet! Keeping physically active can help to speed up recovery but only if the intensity isn’t too high. Using the RPE scale again, level 3 – 4 will be a low intensity and will be ideal.

Going for a walk, a bike ride or gardening will help the immune system by keeping the body functional and your circulation flowing, if you can do this outside, more the better. Obviously gardening is better outside!

Guidelines for exercising while sick

Keep well

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