Monday, February 1, 2010

Should I workout when I am ill?

Just the other day I was telling someone how I have not gotten a flu in over 3 years now. With everyone around me having the sniffles, I thought wow, I must be in great shape. despite hanging out with people who had bad flus, i still did not get sick. But as luck would have it, I finally did fall ill and dealing with flu as I write this.

Anyway, the purpose of this posting is not to bitch about being sick, but rather to answer a simple question that many out there ask me. Should I work out when I am ill?

Well for starters, you should see your doctor when ever you are ill. Ask your doctor if its OK for you to work out. Now most doctors will tell you its better to stay at home and just rest, so this is where your own judgement comes into play. Doctors are not wrong when they tell you to skip the workout, and they have your best intentions in mind... which is to recover as fast as possible. But if you are a fitness addicts like me, I usually nod my head and then decide later if I should rest at home or work out.

For me, I usually decide based on how ill I am am. If all you have is a little blocked nose and nothing more, I usually hit the gym anyway. I usually go a little lighter on weights and at a lower intensity for cardio. I never push a full blown workout when I am ill. How light or how intense you should push all depends on how ill you are, and with years of work out experience under my belt, I am a pretty good judge on how hard I can push at the gym. So you know your body best, and will know how far to push it. now i am not saying you should go against your doctor's advice and workout when you are ill. i am saying that you need to judge for yourself if you are up to it or not.

If I feel pretty ill and have a fever, headache, sore throat etc, then I stay away from the gym all together. Trust me, even if you did go to the gym, you would not be giving your best, so its better to rest and stay at home. When I am that ill, the only thing on my mind is to rest and recover...not pumping iron at the gym. So rest, recover and once you are better you can go crazy at the gym again.

Some people tell me that working out when you are ill actually makes you feel better. So rather than resting at home, you should workout more. Well the feel good factor is usually due to endorphins released into your bloodstream after a workout. whenever you workout or do vigorous activity, your body releases feel good hormones called endorphins. It has little effect on actually helping you combat the illness itself. For the fastest recovery results, resting at home will be your best bet. You will still recover even if you worked out, but your recovery time might be slightly longer. So this again, is where your judgement comes into play. If you are not sure on what to do, its best to stick with your doctor's advice.

So in summary, follow these simple steps when deciding whether to workout or not when you are ill
1) Speak to your doctor first. You can even ask him if its OK to do a light workout and he/she will tell you yes or no. If your doctor is the kindd that works out, he / she may even tell you how hard you can workout.
2) You know your body best. So decide on how well you are feeling before going to the gym. If you feel like crap, stay at home. IF you just feel a little whoozy, then yeah, go ahead.
3) If you do decide to work out, ensure it is a lighter one (maybe about 70% to 80% of your usual intensity)

So I hope this helps to answer the question on whether or not you should workout when you are ill. With lots of people having the sniffles these days, I hope this posting will help you. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments

16 comments:

The Corporate Athlete said...

I'm a big believer in working out whenever I'm not well. Plus, to support it with lotsa fluid and possibly, good quality vitamin C supplements. Normally, for me, it goes away almost instantly. Exercise is known to improve the lymphatic system - a system that's responsible in getting rid of the toxin.

Rajan said...

CA: Bro... i truly admire your spirit. Sometimes when i am really ill, i really got no mood for working out.... so those times i will become a real couch potato. :)

As for improving the lymphatic system, i am not too sure on that. But Doctor friends have told me that some flu strains affect your heart, and working out extra hard during that time could cause some damage to your heart. So this is why most doctors always tell you to rest.

gunther_furlong said...

Try not to work out when u're unwell, especially when u are havin a temperature (FEVER). U can get carditis (heart inflammation) from what i gather .....


An odd sore throat here and there is fine .... havin a running nose is fine, so as long as it's not drooling out of your nose.


Also, don't take sedative anti - histamines... u are not suppose to work with heavy machinery as such! haha

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The Corporate Athlete said...

Probably it's true. Well, I haven't down with really bad fever so far, and finds exercise just kills off the headache and fever. Works well for my wife as well. Furthermore, we hardly do any intense training. Just some regular cardio works.

Rajan said...

Dr Gunther: Thanks for the insight. So sore throats and flu are OK right? Only fever is bad.

yes, thats what i heard about the heart as well... was not too sure of the term, but i know it did affect the heart.

CA: yep... i guess as you keep the exercise moderate then, it should be OK. But then again, knowing how you train, your idea of light and moderate cardio is not very light. hehehehehe. Just kidding bro.

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gunther_furlong said...

honestly, for me depends how u feel. I don't mind working out with a mild flu/cough... but with the advent of spread of H1N1 or similar diseases in the future, better rest and stay at home..

Fever is of cos a NO ! :)

anfield devotee said...

Flu? . . . Whiskey warmwater . . . & make it a double barkeep . . .

Rajan said...

Gunther.... agree. If you feel OK, then go ahead. I too judge for myself and decide.

AD: Hahahaha... thanks for sharing the age old remedy for curing the flu. never really tried it.

Aizan Suhaira said...

I'm pretty lembik when I get a fever. But a little sniffing occasionally doesn't deter me from working out. The sweating is good for me anyway.

Rajan said...

Aizan: I am just like you. Fever really knocks me over.... but flu, yeah, i can deal with that.... and still recovering from my flu....

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Lexis Excellence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
khor said...

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