Working Out When Sick: The Do’s And Don’ts

Some people insist on going to the gym and working out when sick. They’re coughing all over the equipment and contaminating everything in sight. There’s always the one guy lifting weights, looking like he’s going to pass out.

Seriously? You really do have a choice here, people. It’s a common courtesy to other gym-goers to not show up when you’re contagious, especially looking like you’re on your deathbed. That means even a slight level of contagion. It’s not about if you can handle it or not.

Your health comes before fitness, and your body needs time to recover.

When Is It OK to Sweat It Out?

You definitely need an appointment with your doctor to diagnose how you’re feeling, ultimately, but here are a few tips on working out when sick:

1. Working Out With Runny Nose

It’s OK to hit the gym. Don’t be a mean booger, though: Blow your nose properly! Bring tissues and properly sanitize all surfaces regularly, including your hands.

2. Working Out With A Cold

If you have a cold, you can be contagious for up to five days. Wipe down all surfaces with sanitizer – before and after – if you must go. Keep your contagion to yourself, preferably, and work out at home.

If you have a runny nose or a cold, it’s OK to sweat it out with proper sanitation methods and personal practices to prevent the spread of your funk. So, religiously sanitize your hands and the equipment, shower ASAP and wear flip-flops, bandage all open wounds and don’t share personal-care items.

3. Working Out With Fever Or A Stomach Bug

When you have a fever or stomach bug, it means you likely need to stay home from work and the gym. It’s important to try to differentiate between a stomach bug and food poisoning.

How Do You Know When You Have a Stomach Bug?

A stomach bug, or stomach flu, is known medically as viral gastroenteritis. It’s a highly contagious illness that spreads through food, water and close contact with infected individuals.

Use proper safety measures when cleaning up surfaces that are soiled with stool and vomit. Glove thyself! Be wary of spaces where people live, learn and work in close quarters, such as day cares, schools and rest homes.

You likely have viral gastroenteritis if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea;
  • Intestinal cramps;
  • Stomach cramps;
  • Vomiting;
  • Nausea;
  • Fever.

Symptoms start appearing within 24-48 hours. After a few days of experiencing the above symptoms, you’ll likely become dehydrated. Take care when introducing fluids and foods back into your diet. Follow your doctor’s instructions.

When What You Eat Is More Than a Bug

Food can be contaminated with pathogens in a number of ways: soil, water, live organisms in animal intestines, infected individuals’ handling, nonsanitized surfaces, improper storage or improper cooking. Making you cringe already?

Raw foods and beverages pose the greatest risk because they may have not been stored, cooked or refrigerated/frozen correctly – which eliminates most pathogens. Take measures to prepare and store food properly for prevention.

Hint: Don’t put your raw chicken over your produce in the fridge.

Now you know how food becomes contaminated, but what is food poisoning exactly? Trichinosis is one of the many possible types of food poisoning, but it’s no trick, so don’t trick yourself into thinking you have a stomach bug.

Food poisoning symptoms can be mild to severe and in addition to the standard viral symptoms listed above, can include:

  • Muscle soreness;
  • Headaches;
  • Eye swelling;
  • Thirst;
  • Profuse sweating;
  • Chills;
  • Extreme tiredness.

Severe symptoms of food poisoning include difficulty breathing, inflammation around heart muscles and issues with coordinating movement.

Workout Intensity When Sick

As it turns out, when you work out you boost your immunity if you’re only mildly sick. The catch is to keep it light and not push yourself too hard. Physical activity can flush bacteria out of your airways, reducing the risk of a cold.

The increase in body temperature before and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing, just like when a fever kicks in to boil the ick.

You know exercise helps improve mood, and it also reduces stress that affects illness. Keep it light with not too much strain. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Go for the lighter weights.

Working Out When Sick Is Safe, Under Certain Conditions

Don’t push yourself too hard if you’re working out when sick. It’s OK to work out while mildly sick, with a runny nose, low-symptom allergies or a run-of-the-mill cold.

Sometimes a fever isn’t just a fever. You may have a stomach bug or food poisoning. It’s important to know the difference and know when to truly rest.

If you do work out, keep exercise light. Religiously sanitize surfaces. Practice proper gym sanitation etiquette, which is common courtesy anyway. Most importantly, take care of yourself.

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