I asked the experts whether exercising while sick helps you heal…
If you’re like me and too many others right now, you’ve been dealing with a lingering cold or virus, assuring strangers and friends through coughing fits that, “IT’S NOT COVID! I DON’T HAVE COVID! I’M NOT EVEN SICK! I SWEAR!”
Suddenly, every basic cold and strange ailment that was lying dormant while we masked up to protect ourselves from coronavirus has come home to roost. Basically, we’re all at least a little sick.
So, how do we get better, when these colds, for example, aren’t simply hitting us hard, but are hanging around for weeks and even months? How do we handle the prolonged symptoms? Of course, we’ve all got our healing hacks from turmeric and ginger teas to Zinc bombs. And we’ve all heard the expression, “starve a cold, feed a fever.” But the rules on exercise seem way less clear.
When you’re semi-sick, is it better to move your body or give it a rest?
According to Heather Hart, Myrtle Beach-based ACSM certified exercise physiologist, CSCS, and founder of Relentless Forward Commotion, I am not alone in my confusion. “I often joke that I wish our bodies were like cars with check engine lights,” she says, “so we’d know when it was OK to keep going, or when we needed to stop and repair ourselves first!”
As it turns out, what’s best is dependent on each given situation — the ailment, the stage of illness and, most importantly, how you feel. “The very first thing to do is to try and evaluate why you’re feeling under the weather,” she suggests. “Is it something like seasonal allergies, where you may have a runny nose and a headache, but you aren’t actually fighting off a virus? Or, are you on the tail-end of a head cold, where those symptoms seem to linger for weeks after the primary illness has passed?”
In both of these cases, Hart says that exercise is typically fine and may actually help you feel better. “For some people, the vasodilation of blood vessels and opening of the nasal passages and airways may help clear your sinuses and clear that foggy feeling in your head,” she explains. “The release of catecholamines like dopamine and norepinephrine during exercise may give you a mental boost from the ‘blah’ emotional feelings…