If You've Been Unwell And Are About To Head Back To The Gym, Read This First
So, you've finally kicked that pesky cold or 'flu to the kerb and are no doubt ready and raring to get back to your pre-illness exercise routine.
Are you really ready to tackle your regular 10km run or hot yoga class though? If not, you could end up worse off than before -- or with a brand-new ailment. Seriously.
"If your immunity is still low, your energy levels will also be low and you risk injuring yourself such as pulling a muscle or getting sick again," fitness coach Libby Saliba told 10 daily.
That's because hard exercise puts your body under stress and when you’re unwell, your body is already under stress trying to fight off the infection, dietitian and personal trainer Josh Reed explained.
Hitting the gym at full-throttle post-illness can, therefore, compromise your immune system if it’s still fighting the infection, and your cold or flu can get worse -- and last for longer.
Timing is everything
Reed told 10 daily that there's no set rule or time for when it's okay to return to exercise after a cold or flu, so listening to your body is the best approach.
One way to look at it is to consider whether your symptoms are above your neck -- such as a runny nose and watery eyes -- or below your neck -- a cough, fever, tummy troubles or muscle aches.
In general, if your symptoms are above your neck and you feel okay, it’s probably fine to do some light to moderate exercise, Reed explained. If you're dealing with something below your neck, give exercising a miss and let your body rest and recover.
In Saliba's opinion, your energy levels, sleep and appetite are the biggest indications of when you're good to go. "When that's all back to normal you're usually at about 90 percent capacity and okay to workout," she said.
Plus, as she pointed out, there's no point in racing to get back into it as you likely won't have enough energy to burn many calories anyway.
Easy does it
How we go about getting back into exercising is just as important as making sure that we're ready to go back in the first place.
The key is -- repeat after us -- to Take. It. Easy.
"If you’ve been unwell for a long period of time, it’s smart to ease back into your workouts very slowly," Reed said.
A good rule of thumb is to consider how long you've been sick -- the longer you've been unwell, the longer you should take to ease back into your specific exercises.
Start off with about 10 to 30 minutes of light to moderate intensity exercises like walking, cycling, swimming, Tai Chi and yoga, Reed explained.
Again, listen to your body during and after each workout -- if you’re feeling good, aim to slowly increase the length and intensity each day.
High-intensity exercises -- think heavy strength training, HIIT, endurance training and team sports -- are best avoided after a bout of cold or 'flu, at least until you're feeling perkier.
"As you start to feel better, ease back into your workouts and build up the intensity and duration over a number of workouts and days," he said.
There are some warning signs that you've made your comeback too early.
Reed recommends looking out for shortness of breath, higher than normal resting heart rate, lightheadedness, and general low energy.
If any of those crop up while you're doing your thing at the gym you might want to reign it back in or throw in the towel -- for a little while at least.
Still not convinced? On top of zapping your immunity levels and potentially worsening your existing illness exercising too early and too hard can even induce an irregular heart rhythm, Reed warned.
In Saliba's opinion, it's always better to err on the side of caution.
Feature image: Getty.