Can you workout when you’re sick? It can be difficult to judge. If you’re suffering from a cold or at the tail end of a virus, then here are some words of advice from London-based personal trainer and swim coach, Tom Puntis.
How do you advise your clients on working out when they are sick?
I work very closely with my clients by motivating, monitoring and supporting them through their training goals year round. Sometimes these goals require a huge amount of consistency and discipline, for example fat loss. Just when they find their rhythm and body fat starts to creep down they get sick. It, of course, feels like a setback but not all hope is lost. Getting sick happens to us all. It’s very difficult to avoid colds and viruses this time of year and it can be tricky, as a trainer, to assess my client’s symptoms and provide advice for or against further exercise.
When clients are sick I will always judge it case by case and it’s difficult to provide a blanket statement. But here is my best shot… if you have a fever, elevated heart rate, muscle and joint pain/weakness, enlarged lymph nodes or vomiting… REST.
If you have a cold or sore throat with no fever or body aches then light exercise is ok and can enhance other factors such as mood and enhance sleep, which in turn, aids recovery.
Is there anything we should be avoiding if we’re feeling under the weather?
First of all exercise is a stress on the body and the higher intensity the more stress you place on your immunity. For example, a marathon event can suppress the immune system for upto 72 hours post-run which is why so many endurance athletes get sick after races.
If you are feeling sick then your own symptoms really need to be your best guide. In general, I would stay clear of anything high intensity, lengthy endurance, heavy strength training, exercising in extreme temperatures etc.
Is rest always best when it comes to fighting off sickness or can exercise aid recovery?
First off, exercise should never be forced. This will only make you feel worse. However, lighter intensity exercises where the heart rate is kept below 120 bpm has been shown to boost immunity. And consistent moderate intensity exercise has been shown to further increase the immunity. Just remember, pushing your body too hard too soon can suppress your immune system so keep it light and gentle. If your symptoms are strong and are not reducing day by day then it is best to rest and also consider consulting with your doctor.
Can you recommend some gentle ways to keep the body moving when you’re unwell?
My favourite form of exercise when you are not your normal healthy self is to walk. The power of walking is completely underestimated. Not only is it a mood booster, it also is super joint friendly and can be done year round. Also, I have personally found this a great way to reconnect with friends and loved ones – instead of staying at home once you’ve finished work, why not go for a stroll with your partner and catch up on how your day was? It’s great quality time together, it’s doesn’t cost anything and gets your body moving – the way it was designed.
Some people think of yoga as a great form of exercise to do when your sick or feeling under the weather but the inverted movements can place extra pressure around your head and can particularly affect/make worse headaches or sinus related symptoms. Stick to walking or light movement like stretching. You can’t go wrong.
How else do you advise your clients to stay healthy during the winter months?
My advice is pretty simple. Keep your vitamin D levels topped up to help maintain normal function of energy levels. I eat lots of kiwis as they are very high in vitamin C so I always recommend my clients to stock up. Lastly, maintain a healthy diet with a variety of food groups to give your body the best chance to reach its daily needed level of nutrients. Oh, and wash your hands before you eat… definitely sounds like something parents would say but it’s very good advice!
For more advice on fitness and wellbeing, follow Tom on instagram – @tompuntis