Exercising When Sick: Should You Do It?

Fitness // 12WBT Staff

It’s a common question: should you train when you’re sick?  Many people don’t know the answer.

First thing’s first: just how sick are you?

As the days grow chillier, it’s normal that you might feel under the weather. But when you’re trying to decide whether to hang up your sneakers or not, you need to differentiate between having a common cold or a full-blown flu.

How sick ARE you? The flu vs. a cold

Chances are you’ll know about it if you’ve got the flu. It really knocks you for six – you’ll most likely have a fever, aches and pains, and have little or zero energy.

The flu will also impact on your immune system, placing it in a vulnerable state. While training can help us feel great and energise us, the body needs to be in a state of good health to experience the full benefits. When you’re sick, your body is already fighting a battle just to get well – it doesn’t need another battle on its hands.

12WBT fitness guru Ben says: “Training while sick with the flu will only negatively affect the immune system, causing you to feel worse. Therefore, your best option is to rest from training while focusing on great nutrition and maintaining a high fluid intake.”

A run-of-the-mill cold, when you might have a slight cough, runny nose and feel generally under the weather, is a different story. Ben’s opinion? Train, but be gentle. “You’ll probably still be able to train with lower weights, fewer sets, for shorter durations and at a lower intensity to prevent yourself from pushing too hard,” he explains.

If symptoms persist or get worse, stop training until they subside.

Also read: 10 Foods for a Natural Boost

Avoid getting sick: why prevention is better than cure

Sadly, there’s no magic cure for a cold or the flu. The best defence is a healthy immune system, and good nutrition is essential for keeping your immune system strong. This is important in cooler weather, when seasonal illnesses like colds and flus are at their peak. Maintaining a well-balanced diet will give you all the essential nutrients you need for a healthy immune system.

Follow our simple nutrition tips to give your body the best chance of fighting off common winter bugs:

  • Eat foods rich in protein: Protein is made up of amino acids that help the immune system ward off illnesses such as colds and flus. Include rich sources of protein, like lean red meat, chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, beans and unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables: Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants and bioflavonoids that can help boost your immune system and fight infections. Aim for at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day.
  • Drink plenty of water: Aim for eight glasses or cups a day. Try warm teas as the weather starts to cool down. Herbal teas are perfect for keeping you hydrated, while black, green, oolong and white teas contain antioxidants and flavonoids, which can help strengthen the body’s immune system.
  • Don’t skip breakfast: Some studies have shown skipping breakfast may make you more susceptible to illness. A tasty tip is to add frozen summer berries to porridge – the extra antioxidants will help to keep your immune system healthy.
  • Stay active: Keep active and work out regularly. Studies have shown that regular exercise reduces your number of sick days. But listen to your body and, if you’re not feeling 100 percent, take it easy.

Boost your immune system

Be your own doctor by making sure you have an adequate intake of the following handy helpers:

  • Vitamin C: Boosts immunity by stimulating the formation of antibodies that fight infections. Include two servings a day of foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges, kiwi fruit, broccoli and red capsicum.
  • Vitamin E: Works as an antioxidant and may help to improve immune function. Rich sources include avocado, almonds, spinach and olive oil.
  • Zinc: Helps the immune system work properly and can also help with wound healing. Zinc can be found in lean red meat, chicken, seafood, dairy products, eggs, whole grains, beans and nuts. Try this yummy Chicken & Broccolini Laksa.
  • Garlic: Rich in allicin and sulphuric compounds which can help to stimulate the immune system.

12WBT has the Meal Plans and workouts to keep you feeling – and looking – your very best. Join today.