Working out while sick: Bad idea?

By: Mike Booth, RMT, Oct 19, 2012
Working out while sick| Mike Booth, RMT of Massage Athletica

Should I continue working out when I have a cold?

Here's the facts on physical activity while being under the weather.

We've all done it, your fighting off that bad cold and can't stand the thought of missing a workout. You battle through it and you wonder: Was it even worth it? Did you just do more damage than good? Here's the facts on physical activity while being under the weather.

Got a fever? Skip the gym! Raising your body temperature through exercise while you already have a fever is not a smart move. The higher your body temperature the more your heart and lungs have to work to pump oxygen through the body. If you're already fighting off infection, your body does not need this extra stress.

If you aren't that ill and think you can make it through a workout, start with a light warm up and go from there. Keep things lighter in terms of weight, and less intense as well. If you're noticing dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle aches or anything else unusual, stop immediately.

According to Mayo Clinic, you can use this as a general guideline. Sick above the neck (cold, sore throat etc) you can work out as long as you don't get any of those negative symptoms mentioned above. Sick below the neck (chest infection, muscle aches, upset stomach) skip the workout and get some rest instead! Don't worry, taking a few days off from the gym to get over an illness won't effect your performance in the long run, and it's better than risking either making yourself more sick, or injuring yourself due to being sick!

Similar principles apply to Massage Therapy. During a massage treatment it is common for toxins to be released from the muscles and for the lymphatic and circulatory systems to be stimulated. Which is a great benefit if you are currently healthy. However if you're already fighting an infection, releasing more toxins into your system may be too much for your body to handle. Additionally, increased circulation can cause an already present virus to accelerate through your system. In some cases this helps you recover quicker, but often will leave you feeling worse.

Mike is owner/therapist of Massage Athletica. He is a graduate of Massage Therapy College of Manitoba and a member of MTAM. Winning the Manitoba Marathon  4 times, he is a veteran runner. His interests are in helping athletes improve performance and preventing injuries during training.