Training When Sick

Dear Dr. Bell, what is your advice on training when sick? I have a pretty good case of the flu. But it’s been going on for about a week. Is it better to “sweat it out,” or continue to rest? I just don’t want to lose all the progress I made.

I appreciate your dedication to your fitness training, but PLEASE don’t go to the gym or any other public places when you have the Flu! Influenza is highly contagious and can kill the very young, the very old and anyone with a depressed immune system. Take special precautions not to cough, sneeze, or breath on other people or even touch them when you are sick. This is beyond common courtesy or proper manners, it is a moral imperative. It is a kind, considerate, compassionate, intelligent and professional decision to never exercise or be around other people when you are sick with a contagious disease.

When you are very sick, and the Flu qualifies as very sick, you should never exercise. If you are slightly sick, i.e.: minor cold, light exercise might actually  help you. Light exercise is defined as light cardio or stretching (but still not around other people). The Theory is that light exercise is not strenuous enough to depress your immune system, but is sufficient physical activity to elevate your body temperature to “Burn out the Bug!” Keeping in mind that a fever is the bodies way of killing the bacteria or virus that is making you sick! I also think that light exercise gives a reason for your mitochondria to produce more ATPs, the energy you need for health and activity.

It is not a good idea to exercise while you are running a fever however! In a fevered state, exercising could cause your body to overheat, easily exceeded safe temperatures and causing serious harm to your body. It is recommend that you wait a few days post illness to return to training and following the GPO Principle, you start at a slower, less intense pace than you had before the illness. Charging back too soon and too hard will often cause a relapse of the disease and once again slow your efforts toward your fitness goals.

Once you get over your illness would be an ideal time to begin a program to rebuild your immune system to make it stronger than it was before. You should make a concerted effort to boost your immune system to prevent future illnesses. It has become “Common Wisdom” that everyone gets the Flu once/year and 2 colds/year! If you believe this common wisdom, you are WRONG!

Personally, I cannot remember the last decade I was sick! I NEVER get sick! If you take the effort to build your immune system & take simple precautions, you will never get sick.

To boost your immune system: Eat healthy: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, chicken, turkey, beans, legumes, Low fat dairy, Kefir, natural Greek yogurt(not the sugary stuff) and milk. Drink plenty of pure water, Green tea and other teas. Limit fatty food, simple carbs, sugars, alcohol and soda. Eliminate smoking, fried foods, Trans Fats, and recreational drugs. Get 7-8 hours of sleep/night, and follow a healthy lifestyle to include stress management, healthy relationships and healthy recreation.

No one plans on getting sick! “Life is what happens when we are making other plans,” but you can plan on a healthy lifestyle to prevent it in the future!

Good Luck!