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Top tips for exercising whilst unwell Posted on 20/03/2018

Top tips for exercising whilst unwell

Even with spring approaching, the dreaded coughs and colds lingering around from winter still seem to catch the unlucky among us off-guard. It’s always dispiriting when you’re feeling under the weather, but it’s made worse by the worry that your physical progression is stunted or even deteriorating. Rest assured, one week out of your workout schedule isn’t going to negatively impact your hard work or severely reduce your performance.

There are a vast number of contradictory beliefs when it comes to the ‘exercising whilst unwell’ debate, with some experts urging rest above all else and others encouraging continued light exercise to get you back on track. If the excess of conflicting advice is only adding to your troubles, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll help clarify a few things by focusing on our top 5 tips for you to consider when you’re feeling run-down:

Examine your symptoms:

It’s widely suggested amongst health and wellness experts that any illness above the neck such as: sinus problems, headache, sore throat etc. should not prevent you from exercising. However, for anything below the neck: chesty cough, sickness, diarrhoea, aches in muscles/joints, your usual fitness programme is best avoided. Studies have shown that exercising with above-the-neck symptoms can in fact improve how you feel. Just remember to adjust your routine accordingly to best suit your symptoms: rather than venturing to the noisy gym with a pounding headache, instead opt for a fast walk or light jog to alleviate some pressure and clear congestion. However, don’t forget that the rules for exercising with a virus, flu, sickness or diarrhoea are the opposite, as pushing yourself could worsen your symptoms and setback your recovery. This is because in these cases your immune system needs time to recover and exposing yourself to cold outdoor runs or unventilated gyms isn’t advisable.

Listen to your body:

Your gut instinct is a very reliable thing. As a general rule, if you’re contemplating going to the gym, but you’ve been indecisive about whether it’s a good idea, then the likelihood is that you’re well enough to exercise. We all know that when we’re very ill and bed-ridden, moving is the last thing on our minds, let alone doing a set of burpees. It’s important to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you by noticing how it responds during your workout. For example, if you’ve taken the plunge to start exercising but you’re immediately feeling far worse, try toning down the intensity or accept the fact that you probably weren’t quite ready to jump back into your regime.

Start slow:

There’s absolutely no shame in taking it easy, you’ve got nothing to prove to anyone and your number one priority should be getting back to feeling like your usual healthy self, not challenging yourself by embarking on your most physically demanding session yet. You aren’t going to gain anything by pushing yourself to the limit and feeling even worse tomorrow, this will only delay your recovery. How about starting with some light stretching to improve mobility, gradually moving to steady cardio and some simple body weight exercises? Your body isn’t in the right condition to experiment with new workouts and techniques, so keep it straight-forward and low intensity. Remember that while not feeling 100%, your goal shouldn’t be to get stronger, fitter or to lose weight, it should simply be to keep your body used to your routine by maintaining consistency so that on your return you can pick things up where you left off.

Get adequate rest:

Even if you do feel well enough to exercise, it’s crucial to pay particular attention to your post-exercise recovery, it’s likely that you’ll need more time to rebound than you usually do. Allowing sufficient time to recuperate and heal after training should never be undervalued, especially when your immune system is at its weakest. Avoiding rest only delays recovery and by neglecting proper downtime you’ll put yourself at risk for contracting more illnesses as well as sustaining physical injuries.

Fuel your body with healing nutrients:

We cannot stress enough how important it is to eat the correct food when you’re ill. The nutrients you feed your body is exactly what it is using to restore and repair itself, so if you’re careless with your meals your rundown body has to work even harder to extract the essentials – so be kind to yourself and make some extra effort! If you’re feeling sick, ginger is fantastic for alleviating nausea, you can easily add it to soups, hot drinks or smoothies. These liquids can also help to reduce sore throat symptoms as well as aid in reducing congestion. Make sure you blend loads of curing green vegetables into smoothies and soups to boost your vitamin and mineral intake! Another great throat soother is hot water with honey and lemon (you can drink this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to kick-start your metabolism too!).


Never forget that maintaining a positive mental attitude while unwell can really help to speed up your recovery - we hope these steps will help you to bounce back in no time!