If you’re feeling under the weather, exercise may be the last thing you want to do. In some cases, rest is exactly what you need, but in other cases, exercise could actually help you feel better.
As a general rule of thumb, many health professionals recommend following the “neck rule.” If your symptoms are all above the neck, you can exercise, and doing so may help you feel better — especially if your main complaints are congestion and low energy.
However, if your symptoms are below the neck — such as fever, body aches, or stomach problems — rest is just what the doctor ordered until you are feeling better.
Listen to your body. If you do choose to exercise while feeling a little bit ill, it’s best to avoid going to the gym or a group exercise class, especially if you are running a fever or might be contagious. Be considerate of others and stick to exercises you can do outside on your own or at home until you are feeling better.
Exercises You Can Do While Sick
Walking — Even a brisk 20-minute walk can help you keep up with your fitness, and help improve your symptoms as well. If you are congested, focus on deep breathing while walking to open up your sinus passages.
Jogging — Take it up a notch with a light jog (lower intensity than your normal jog/run). Like walking, jogging serves as a natural decongestant and can help you fight off congestion and sinus symptoms.
Yoga — If you’re sick and fighting an infection, your body will release cortisol, the stress hormone. Yoga is one of the best ways to reduce stress with deep breathing and stretching. The stretching can help relieve body aches from illness, and there is even some evidence yoga can boost immunity.
Dance — Turn on your favorite tunes and get your groove on while cleaning or working around the house. Like yoga, dance can help reduce stress; one study found that even just listening to dance music reduces cortisol and increase cold-fighting antibodies in the body.
Bed exercises — Even if you’re feeling too sick to get out of bed, there are some stretches you can do — such as arm circles, neck rolls, and leg lifts — to stay loose and flexible while you recover.
If you can pull yourself out of bed, any exercises you can do to get your heart pumping may leave you feeling a bit better. But the best advice is to listen to your body. If doing physical activity while you are sick makes you feel worse, stop what you’re doing and focus on rest instead.
Marilyn Hoyt is a Dallas-based Certified Professional Trainer. She holds group workout sessions, including groups specifically designed for people who are significantly overweight, intermediate and advanced fitness camps, and provides in-home personal training.
“Aiming to educate, motivate, and inspire others to live life with purpose!”