Should you sweat it out when you’re sick?

Updated at: May 07, 2018
Should you sweat it out when you’re sick?

While regular exercise boosts immune system, it can also hurt more than help if your body is fighting off an illness. Let’s find out if exercise or rest is the best medicine while you are feeling a little meh.

Namrata Dutta
Exercise & FitnessWritten by: Namrata DuttaPublished at: Oct 04, 2017

And just when you think you are in perfect sync with your work-out routine, you are down with cold, cough, fever and god knows what. Why, why does it happen to you always? Well, don’t be too melodramatic, just a cold it is!

We all have been there. People get sick, no big deal. The only problem arises when people all of a sudden hit the sack, after falling ill. Well, it is still a bit unclear, whether to continue with your work-out sessions or not, when you are under the weather.

We are here to clear your doubts; we tell you whether you are supposed to work-out or not when next you fall ill. For starters, you must know that there’s a huge difference between “working out” and “physically moving the body.”

A structured workout routine is when we are exerting our body to an extent that it starts sweating, we run out of breath and an energized stress response in the body. While being fine in fettle, our body is hale enough to bear stress. Though, when we fall ill, the stress of a tough workout can be more than our immune systems can take. Still, there’s no reason to dive for the couch the minute you feel the sniffles coming on. Unless you’re severely out of shape, the non-strenuous movement shouldn’t hurt you. Instead, it might even help.

Now, what are “Non-strenuous Movements”?

Well, it might include:

  • Walking (preferably outdoors)
  • Low intensity bike riding (again, outdoors)
  • Gardening
  • Practising T’ai Chi

All of these, activities are extreme enough to compromise your immune system, on the contrary, these activities rather boost your immunity. You feel better and recover faster. 

That’s why Dr. Berardi often recommends low intensity, non-panting “cardio” when suffering from cold. Done with minimal heart rate elevation, preferably outside, these activities seem to offer benefits.

These non-panting “cardio” movements are done with minimal heart rate elevation, preferably outdoors, these activities seem to offer benefits.

And what about “working out”?

It is different from “Non-strenuous Movements”. As you may be aware, not all workout plans are same. Depending upon your plan of action, these can range from low intensity to high intensity.

However, what’s low for one person might be high for another. So how are you going to decide the level of intensity that is appropriate for you? Let your own perceived level of exertion guide you.

In general, a low to moderate intensity workout will leave you feeling energized. A high intensity workout, on the other hand, gives you quick results (fat burning, bulking up etc.) but is not easy.

If you are not well, try to avoid the high intensity workouts.

Why? Let’s have a look

How exercise affects the immune system

Exercise may play a pivotal role in both our innate and our adaptive immune response. Here’s how: 

Following a continued high intensity workout, we are highly vulnerable to infection. That is why, after running a marathon, many endurance athletes get sick right after races because running may briefly depress the adaptive immune system for up to 72 hours.

However, one quick high intensity workout session doesn’t trigger the same immune-suppressing effect.  Now, when we are talking about boosting the adaptive immune system, the chronic resistance training stimulates innate immunity but not adaptive.

So, now you have the pattern: Continuous, moderate workout and resistance training can boost the immune system with time. It means, workout hard when you are fit and may just take it easy when not that well.

Image Source: Getty

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