Can you keep fit when you’re sick?


While we are all doing our best, to avoid contact and stop spreading this horrible swine of a virus, the inevitability that we will catch some sort of cold or flu over the next few months increases tenfold and so a question we get asked at Realfit a lot is: what do we do for fitness and nutrition when we feel unwell?


When we think of the most common illnesses we are mostly dealing with:

  • colds
  • coughs
  • influenza
  • sinusitis
  • tonsillitis
  • throat infections
  • middle ear infections


Your body’s natural defence – the Immune System works hard to fight these viruses and return your body back to normal.  This requires a lot of work from your body and if we add too high a stress to our day to day lives it could be more than our immune system can handle.


Training is a simulation of working.  Aside from manual labourers most of us no longer do a hard day’s graft like we used to, so we exercise to stimulate our bodies and keep them functioning properly.  We need to move daily as this not only strengthens our body but also our immune system too.


So what we need to do is, have a plan to allow us to move at the right level to keep ourselves fit and healthy but allow our bodies the chance to recover and bounce back to our former glory.


Generally, we want to look at what the symptoms are and then we can better manage the training around that.


Mild Symptoms

If you don’t have a fever and are just experiencing coughing, runny or congested nose then start with super low intensity sessions for the first couple of days. As long as the symptoms don’t worsen and you still don’t have a fever then you can start to do some mild activity.  Hopefully after 3 to 4 days your symptoms should start to lower and if you are feeling up for it you should be able to return to a slightly lower variation of training (around 50-75% of your usual training). Then after 7 days you should be good to go back full steam.


Low Intensity = walking (on treadmill or outdoors) and mobility


Moderate activity:

  • Fast Walking or light jogging (on treadmill or outdoors)
  • Biking (Stationary bike or outdoors)
  • Mobility
  • Light Resistance Work


Heavy Symptoms

If you have a fever, muscle or joint aches, headache, diaherra, vomiting or are feeling unwell, then it would be advised to do NO exercise at all and if the symptoms persist or worsen over the coming days to contact a medical professional.  There is no way your body can handle the stress of movement and you should look to recover fully before starting back on your training programme.


What about diet when I am sick?

Your digestive system counts for over 70% of your immunity from viruses so its imperative you eat well before, during and after any illnesses to help strengthen and relieve most common symptoms from illness.


Its pretty much shared across the nutritional guidance that a lack of nutrients to the body will increase your likelihood of getting sick so first lets talk about the best ways to avoid being sick in the first place.


Eating lots of Prebiotics and Probiotics will help strengthen your immune system and fill your body with vital vitamins and minerals to help your feel and look your best. Some of those include:

  • Prebiotics – Asparagus, Garlic, Beans, Oats, Apples, Bananas and flax seed
  • Probiotics – Yogurt, cheese, wine, pickles & soy sauce


This is by no means a full list but are the most common and easy to purchase items from your local shops.  As for when you’re sick there are a few foods and drinks that can help relieve some symptoms and make you feel a bit better (though not a cure).  These are Garlic, Honey, Chicken soup & Green tea.


Do we need to feed a cold and starve a flu?

Science is yet to prove whether this wife’s tail is true or not but when sick you should look to eat and take in fluids whenever possible.  You shouldn’t force yourself to eat if your not feeling hungry but eating small and balanced meals, when sick, can help keep your energy levels high and allow your body to do the amazing job it does in helping fight off the virus.


Though it is impossible to avoid becoming sick, especially at this time of year you should look to priorities the following:

  • Exercise frequently
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Get your sleep in


Then when you are sick prioritise:

  • Rest and recover
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Eat when hungry and focus on immune boosting foods


Now go get the day!