I’m NOT talking about being sick in the head, insane in the membrane, or having a screw loose. Although I’ve been accused of this a time or two because of my obsession with Chuck Norris. But I and Chuck are good with it. 😊
This is when you’re feeling a little under the weather with a cold, muscle aches and pains, headaches, etc. Now many would use this as an excuse not to exercise and that’s fine. But (I believe) low-intensity movement which gets the healing blood flow moving is a good thing for your body.
Exercise is good stress but still stress, all the same, so be careful. Your ability to recover from exercise is compromised when you’re sick because your immune system is busy. But your immune system benefits from movement so it’s a classic catch-22.
More is NOT better, but a little exercise is good. Please use your best judgment when you’re sick but realize low-intensity exercise does have some healing properties.
The advice is the symptoms are above your head, you’re okay to exercise holds like concrete. Anything below the head like chills, achy joints, and flu-like symptoms, etc. there is no need to be a hero. Live to fight again another day.
Here are four low-intensity movements to clear your head and to help you feel a little better when you’re sick.
1. Foam Rolling
This can take many forms such as foam rolling, using your own hands, or using golf, tennis, or lacrosse ball. And depending on who you talk to, self-massage is either better than sliced bread or a complete waste of time. That leaves plenty of middle ground to explore.
Think of this as a poor man’s massage. Having hands-on you with the massage therapist is more effective than other self-massage modalities. However, self-massage is cheaper and more accessible.
Any type of massage will help relieve muscular tension which happens sometimes when you’re feeling sick. Plus, it brings healing blood flow to areas of your body, improves your joint mobility, and can reduce soreness
In a study published by the Journal of Athletic Training, people who foam rolled their legs after a workout reported a decrease in their post-workout tenderness. They used a roller for 20 mins. after their workout, and again 24 and 48 hours later. (1)
Consider using the exercises below when you’re feeling sick.
2. Walking/Light Cardio
Walking and other low-intensity cardio increases blood circulation and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body which can improve your immunity and temporarily help you feel better. Plus, it can help clear your nasal passages and help you breathe better.
You only have a few immune cells circulating around the body and these like to ‘hang out’ in organs like the spleen, where your body can easily kill viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that cause infections and disease.
Because exercise increases blood and lymph flow circulation as your muscles contract and relax, this increases the circulation of immune cells, making them roam the body at a higher rate and at higher numbers.
Then exercise recruits specialized immune cells—like natural killer cells and T cells to find antigens and kill them.
While this happens straight away, this uptick in immune cells doesn’t stick around, unless you exercise consistently (2) Again, don’t overdo it. You need never be out of breath or even raise the slightest sweat to get the health benefits from walking or light cardio.
Anywhere between 10-30 min will do the trick.
3. Resistance Band Exercises
The beauty of resistance bands is they don’t rely on gravity for resistance, so you can perform a lot of exercises at different angles to challenge your muscles in all different directions. They’re portable, easy to use, and are used for both stretching and lifting. But why use them when you’re sick?
Because they’re less stressful on your joints and body.
Like previously mentioned, your body is already under stress, and not adding more stress but getting the blood and immune cells moving around the body is imperative. Resistance bands strike a good balance because when the bands are not stretched, they put minimal stress on your joints.
You get the benefits of exercise but with less stress on you and your recovery.
Isolation exercises (works one muscle group like triceps) and basic compound exercises like squats, presses, and one-arm rows work well here. Here are a few examples.
4. Light Mobility Exercises
Mobility exercise is uncomplicated, and you can do it anywhere at any time. When my body feels ‘tight’, my joints ache and I’m feeling down in the dumps, doing a small amount of mobility exercise loosens the body up and gets the healing blood flow moving.
Maintaining your mobility when you’re sick will make it easier to move around and do basic things like tying your shoes and putting the dishes away etc. Because unfortunately, life doesn’t stop when you have.
Here are some examples.
Being (not seriously) sick sucks. It limits everything and makes you a joy to be around. But life doesn’t stop because you have. Small amounts of low-intensity exercise will help clear your head, keep you in the game, and may improve your recovery.
So, you can get back to more important things like spreading more joy around. Or worshipping Chuck Norris. 😊
1. Gregory E P Pearcey et al. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train. 2015 Jan;50(1):5-13. DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-50.1.01. Epub 2014 Nov 21
2. David C Nieman, Laurel M Wentz. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. J Sport Health Sci. 2019 May;8(3):201-217.