Could Your Workout Be Causing You To Fall Ill?

by Shannon Clark

Woman suffering with a coldFeeling a cold or flu coming on? If so, you may need to take a step back and evaluate your current fitness program.  What you do now will depend on the severity and potential duration of that flu, so you’ll want to be smart in your approach.

Let’s take a look at some of the key points to know and remember with regards to the connection between your fitness program and the flu.

Can Fitness Cause The Flu?

First, you need to be aware that your vigorous exercise program could be actually what’s causing the flu – at least in part.

This can be the case for two big reasons.


First, your gym isn’t exactly the most hygienic of all places. While people should be wiping down the equipment they are on, not all people do. If someone happened to cough on their hands and then touch that equipment and then you sat down, use it and proceed to touch your nose shortly thereafter, you may have just given yourself their virus.

Be especially careful when at the gym never to touch your nose, eyes, or lips with your hands and after you are finished your workout, be sure to wash your hands down very thoroughly with soap and possibly disinfectant.

Next, a second reason why your vigorous exercise program could be causing the flu is due to overtraining. If you are doing too much exercise – more than your body can deal with, this may mean that you are actually suffering from a weakened immune system.

If that’s the case, it will be far easier for you to come down with that cold and flu compared to if you were at your best.  Your immune system is responsible for keeping your body strong and fending off any invading bacteria and viruses, but when you’re stressed and overtrained, it won’t be doing so as effectively.

By keeping tabs on the intensity and volume of your workout program, you can ensure that it’s where it needs to be in order for you to be at your best.

What Are Your Symptoms?

Now moving forward, let’s say you have the flu already. Should you exercise?  The best question to ask here is what your symptoms are.

Generally speaking, if you have no body aches or pains or don’t feel that slow, groggy feeling, you should be okay to keep up with your workout program.  Note, however, that you should reduce the exercise intensity. Your body is still trying to fight off illness and if you aren’t careful, you might make things worse.

If you do have body aches and pains, which is very typical when one is down with the flu, then your best bet is to just stay home.  Rest up, get better, and then you can get back to your workouts again later on.

There’s no point in pushing yourself to hit the gym as your performance won’t be up to optimal anyway, so your chances of making progress are very slim.

You’ll only make your flu worse, which will then mean you’ll be down and out for a longer period of time.

When To Get Back To Vigorous Exercise

So if you have taken time away from the gym due to a nasty flu, when can you start back up with your vigorous exercise program again?

Give it a day or two after you are feeling 100%.  This will help ensure that your body has fully fought off the flu virus and you have regained your strength level and are capable of doing that level of intense exercise again.

As you move back into your program, make sure that you also do evaluate to ensure that you aren’t suffering from a case of doing too much. If you are, then history will be likely to repeat itself and you will shortly find yourself taking more time off once again.

So there you have some key points to know and remember regarding the connection between exercise and the flu. If you are suffering from the flu, tread lightly and be smart with what you do going forward. You don’t want to put yourself at risk for getting any worse and chances are, no matter what your symptoms, taking a day or two off from exercise will do more good than it will harm.

What do you typically use as your guide when you’re feeling a flu coming on? When do you stop hitting the gym?

Shannon Clark

Shannon ClarkShannon Clark has a degree in Exercise Science and is an AFLCA certified personal trainer. She has written on the topics of health, fitness and nutrition for the last 8 years. Her insights are regularly published on bodybuilding.com, askmen.com and FitRated.com. FitRated is a leading fitness equipment review site offering expert commentary on equipment, workout plans and weight loss strategies.

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