When Not to Exercise:
When You’re Sick
If you wake up with a flu or fever, put the gym bag down and take a rest. These ailments indicate that your body is fighting an infection, which puts your immune system (and your body) under a significant amount of stress. Exercising during this vulnerable time will pile stress onto your body, prolonging recovery in terms of illness as well as muscle repair. Another concern with exercising with a fever is overheating; the body temperature is already elevated and likely causing perspiration, which will only increase as you workout. Excessive sweating will deplete the body severely of essential electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which is excreted along with sweat. Fluids in the body are also decreased during a fever, increasing the chance of becoming dehydrated.
With that said, not all illnesses make exercise a taboo, so don’t take a break every time you’re under the weather! A mild cold may make exercise a little less enjoyable and effective, but probably won’t make you any sicker. To be safe, try exercising at home instead of the gym! Not only is your immune system on the weaker side and therefore more vulnerable to germs during recovery, but you don’t want to risk passing your cold on to someone else.
When Your Muscles and Body are Recuperating
After an intense workout, especially one that focuses on a less-used muscle group, your muscles may feel painfully stiff and achey. With phrases like “pain is weakness leaving the body” and “no pain no gain,” many people think that working out with very tight, sore muscles is a great way to bulk up. However, if your muscles are so tight that your movements are restricted or if your muscles are sore to the touch, your workout should be postponed until they have had more time to recover and repair. If you feel like the muscles are taking a long time to recover, be sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet. By getting the daily recommended intake of protein you can decrease the number of days you have to take off for your muscles to catch up to your workout. Don’t use muscle pain as a reason to skip your workout, though! If you’re feeling sore or achy but your movements are normal and the pain is tolerable, skipping your exercise routine is unnecessary. Instead, reduce the impact of your workout so you’re running a shorter distance, lifting fewer weights, and performing fewer reps.
Recuperation is also important when you’re recovering from an illness. If you were taking a break from exercise while you were sick, you may be eager to jump back into your routine as soon as you’re feeling better. However, immediately putting your body to work when the immune system is still in a weakened state can cause the symptoms of your illness to re-emerge, adding even more off-time in terms of exercise. Be sure to slowly ease yourself back into your workout routine until your body is back in top condition!
When You Have an Injury
If you’re suffering or recovering from an injury, be sure to avoid exercising until you’re completely healed. Even a seemingly inconsequential injury can be made worse during exercise. Not only is the injured part of your body at risk of being made worse, but the rest of your body is also at greater risk of becoming injured as well. In order to make up for the balance, strength, or flexibility that is lost due to your injury, you will subconsciously try to make up for it in other areas, increasing chances of falling, twisting a wrist or ankle, pulling a muscle, etc. If you have a sport-related injury that is still painful after one or two days, get in touch with your healthcare professional or personal trainer. This applies for old injuries as well. If a knee injury from a couple of years back is suddenly bothering you during or after a workout, give your body a break and see your doctor.
If you believe that exercising an injured muscle will help rehabilitate it, you may be right! However, you should absolutely seek advice from your healthcare professional before attempting any form of physical rehabilitation. Doing this properly can take months before the muscle is functioning normally again, and having a physical therapist to assist you will greatly decrease the risk of flaring up the injury.
When You Feel a Sudden or Sharp Pain
Feeling sore or achy is expected and often a desired result of exercise, but you must differentiate between feeling sore and feeling pain. A sudden sharp feeling of pain is never a positive result of working out, and could be an indication of injury. Exercising when you’re unsure of whether or not you have an injury can exacerbate the problem, making it worse and more painful to endure. Visit your doctor to confirm whether or not you have an injury, and rest for 1-2 days before attempting the same workout routine.
When You’re Pregnant
Exercise is encouraged for most pregnant women, but most likely the same workout you did before pregnancy isn’t going to cut it during! Exercising when pregnant should not focus on losing weight or improving fitness; focus should be shifted to maintaining health. Pregnancy puts a lot of physical stress on the body, and the protein you’re ingesting is necessary for the growth of your child. Working out intensely will not only add stress to your body and your baby, but will also cause the body to use protein for muscle recovery as opposed to child growth. Any contact sport or high-impact exercise is off-limits during pregnancy, such as skiing, heavy weight training, or horseback riding (which has other risks as well, such as falling).
If you want to develop a pregnancy exercise plan, the safest option is to talk to your healthcare professional. Low-impact exercises, such as yoga, water sports, walking, and light weight training are generally safe, as long as certain positions and actions are avoided. For example, while yoga is a great pregnancy workout, positions that require inverting the body or laying on the back or stomach are dangerous for you and your child.