Exercising Through Illness - When to take a sick day

Winter is here. The weather is rubbish and it’s frosty outside. It’s also cold & flu season, with many people falling ill.

It’s tempting to skip exercising on days like this when it’s dark and cold outside. The temptation is even greater if you aren’t feeling 100%.

If you are sick, how do you know when to push through and when to take a rest day?

When you are ill, your body is already under a lot of stress so making it do more work may not be the best idea. The general consensus is that if you’ve got a few cold symptoms that are all “above the neck” then exercising should be OK. For instance, going for a walk or jog when you have a runny nose or a sore throat is perfectly fine, provided you listen to your body and don’t overdo it.

If, however, you are suffering from more severe symptoms such as a fever, chills, all over body aches or extreme fatigue, then taking a rest day is vital to recovery.

So what types of exercise are good when you have mild cold symptoms?

The benefits to exercising when you are under the weather are improved circulation and better sleep, which can both lead to a faster recovery time. You’ll also enjoy the mental benefits that come with exercise such as a lift in your overall mood - great to help you get through these winter days.

The key thing to remember is not to push too hard, and think about what kind of proximity you’ll have to other people. Things like yoga, walking, and even swimming which can help open up your airways, are all great options.

On the other hand, lifting heavy weights or endurance running are likely to put too much stress on your body, and can worsen symptoms like sinus pressure and headaches.

At the end of the day if you’re unsure, it’s best to consult your health professional. Especially if your symptoms hang around for more than a few days.