Flu season is here. Should you be sweating or resting when you’re sick? Many people try to keep up their normal daily routine when they are sick. However, you may want to put the brakes on working out and eating your normal diet if you’re not feeling well.
When you’re sick, your body needs certain nutrients and lots of rest to boost your immune system in order to help you get healthier faster. But where exactly do you draw the line between maintaining baseline physical activity and overworking yourself?
To Sweat or Not to Sweat
If you feel like you’re getting sick, you can attempt to work out, especially if your symptoms are mild. However, check in with yourself about ten minutes into your workout to see how you’re feeling. If you still feel okay, keep going.
If you don’t feel okay, make sure to stop; you don’t want to push yourself too hard. If you feel a cold or sickness coming on, certainly don’t go out and run a marathon. Lighten your workload with an easier workout to keep your circulation up, but your intensity level low. And don’t ever go to a gym when you’re sick! That’s a surefire way to spread your germs and pick up others that could make your symptoms even worse.
If you know you are sick, a good rule to stick by is the “neck rule” — that is, you can usually exercise if your symptoms occur from the neck up. For example, if you’re suffering from a head cold or a sore throat, you should be okay to work out. However, as soon as you notice symptoms developing below your neck, like in your chest or stomach, consider a break from your routine.
Finally, if you have a fever, don’t even think about working out. It’s flu season, after all. Get back in bed and start hydrating and resting.
Here are some exercises that you may be able to do when you are sick and are beginning to get over your illness:
- Walking: Walking is always a good form of exercise to get you back on your feet. If your sinuses are clogged, a brisk walk will help you take deep breaths and open up your passages.
- Jogging: If you are already a good, consistent runner, there is no reason that you can’t go out for a light jog outdoors when you are fighting a cold. However, you should definitely scale back the intensity level because your body is already working overtime to help combat the infection — do not go out for a long run.
- Yoga: Your body releases stress hormones when fighting an infection. Yoga is known to relieve stress and is a great exercise you can continue to do when you are sick to help boost your immune system.
- Swimming/Biking: Similar to jogging, these two are okay in moderation if you are already a cyclist or a swimmer. Don’t try a sport you are unfamiliar with when you’re sick.
- Stay Away From: Weights at the gym, team sports, and anything outside in the cold.
Although you can work out in moderation while you’re sick, we recommend that you get some extra rest until you regain some of your strength. It won’t hurt you to take a day or two off. Don’t push it, as excessive activity can make some symptoms worse.
To Eat or Not to Eat
When you are sick, your body needs more calories than normal in order to function properly, because it takes more energy for your body to fight off infection. Therefore, although you may not feel like eating, fueling your body accordingly is very important. You should try to keep up with a normal eating schedule; lessening your calorie intake when you are sick can cause your illness to last longer and your symptoms to worsen. No matter what kind of symptoms you have, you should always stay hydrated!
If you develop cold-like symptoms, your caloric intake should include lots of the following:
- Broth-Based Soup: Chicken noodle soup does more than you think. The chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, which helps thin mucus in the lungs. The soup broth can help to keep nasal passages moist, prevent dehydration, and fight inflammation in the throat.
- Popsicles: This delicious snack can help you stay hydrated while thinning out your congestion and mucus. They are also great for a sore throat.
- Spicy Foods: If you are congested, spicy food is the perfect option for you. It will help clear your sinuses in a matter of minutes.
- Hot Tea: Warm liquids can help soothe your throat and keep you hydrated. Tea is also rich in antioxidants that can help support your immune system.
- Citrus Fruits: The flavonoids in the outer white skin of citrus fruits can boost your immune system and help you get on the road to recovery.
If your symptoms worsen or become stomach-related, add these to your diet:
- Bananas: Vomiting, sweating, and diarrhea can deplete your body’s potassium levels. For these symptoms, bananas are the perfect superfood, helping you replenish your lost potassium and electrolytes; they can even lower your body temperature.
- Ginger: Ginger is very helpful in settling your stomach, which is why doctors recommend you drink ginger ale when you have a stomach ache.
- Crackers and Toast: Plain, unsalted foods may be boring, but they are easy on your stomach and can help stabilize your digestion.
Foods to Avoid When Sick
- Dairy: Dairy can increase mucus production, which causes further congestion and makes you feel worse.
- Foods High in Sugar and Fat: Foods high in sugar and fat can suppress your immune system.
Being sick doesn’t mean you should simply lie in bed drinking water for days at a time. But by maintaining moderate physical activity and eating right, you can stay on your routine — or close to it — and avoid having to play “catch up” once you’re back to 100%.