Working Out When Sick: when to sweat it out or rest

The Immune System

When we refer to the immune system we have to know the difference of the innate and adaptive immune response. Our innate, or natural, immune system is the first line of defense. This includes our mucous barriers, stomach acids, and protective cells like NK and white blood cells. It develops when we are young. In general, women have a stronger innate immune system and do better than men with colds. To me this is proof the "Man-Flu" is real!!!! At the same time, women suffer more from autoimmune diseases.

We have an adaptive (acquired) immune system too. This kicks in when the innate immune system needs help. This system helps fight infections and prevents pathogens from destroying our good bacteria and viruses. It recruits T and B cells. B cells are know as memory cells. They can recognize a pathogen and attack it. This is why the first cold you every had was worse than the one the second. In general, our kids get sick more often because then don't have the memory cells built up to fight off common pathogens. As silly as it sounds, you want your kids to get sick often as a child. Their bodies are tough and made to fight infection. This is what we call "building immunity."

The adaptive immune system is the basis for vaccinations. We introduce a small dose of a pathogen and our body can fight it off and create a memory. When we come in contact with a larger dose our body will know what to do. Take the current example. The pandemic is over. Many people are still getting the "thing" but the fear has drastically reduced and more and more are treating it like a cold with or without vaccinations.

Now that we know the 2 parts of the immune system, let's discuss whether we should sweat it out or rest.

Sweat it or Rest it

If you think hitting a high intensity workout is good when you're sick, you're wrong. High intensity or long duration workouts cause stress in the body. If the body is under stress from a pathogen, we don't want to create more problems. For anyone who's done a marathon, Spartan Beast, or any long physical activity you might feel a little under the weather afterwards. That's normal and due to the stress you put on the body. Don't do this when sick.

What you can do is a low intensity workout. Think about our Steady State workouts in class. Do you get sweaty and feel good after? Probably. This is how you should look at your workouts when you are sick. Keep the intensity at one you can feel good when the workout is done. Leave your body wanting more and you can boost your immune system when you are sick.

Don't jump to the couch and turn on the tube at the first sign of sickness. Adapt your workouts (we can help) to create one that promotes blood flow, elevates the heart rate, and makes you feel good when you are done. It's one more way we can hack the immune system so we can get back to our regularly scheduled program of life.

"There are no bad movements, just more efficient ones."