Posted by: Lena | 2008/06/26

Flu and Exercise

I am worried about the consequences of doing exercise while you have the flu, expesially the inpact on your heart, but nobody cangive me an explanation on why it is dangerous? I do not want to lose my fittness by not doing any exercise while I am sick. Can somebody please tell me why it is so dangerous?

Not what you were looking for? Try searching again, or ask your own question
Our expert says:
Expert ImageFitnessDoc

Hi Lena

It's dangerous because a viral infection can very easily move to the heart muscle when you do strenuous activity (any stress can cause it and exercise counts as a stress). When this happens, you develop something called myocarditis, an infection of the heart muscle, which is easily fatal. Many runners have died as a result of this condition. So when you have flu, it's extremely dangerous to train.

The best guide to use when ill is the neck test - if your symptoms are above the neck (stuffy nose, headaches, a bit of congestion, slightly sore throat), then it's USUALLY okay to do a bit of exercise, but at a substantially reduced intensity and duration. In otherwords, if your training programme says to go and do 60 minutes of hard running followed by gym, forget that and rather do 20 minutes of running and no gym!

If your symptoms are below the neck - sore joints, aching muscles, general fatigue, chest hurting, then under no circumstances should you exercise at all. It could be very very risky, and it's not worth that. So in that case, stay in and spend your energy fighting off the flu.

Having said all this, I'm still a big believer that you should always rest if sick, even if it feels like a minor illness and you pass the 'neck test'. The reason is that your being sick is another stress on the body - you need to deal with it, not add exercise to double that stress. And so even though it may be safe to exercise when sick under some circumstances, I'm not convinced that it's the best in the long term, simply because it will delay your recovery to 100% in many cases. So two days off now may end up saving a forced one week later, if you follow my logic. Of course, this is easier said than done, but that's what I would TRY to do!

Good luck

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

Our users say:
Posted by: Sath | 2008/06/26

Hi Lena.

Not a fitness expert as yet. But I have played football since I was 6.

Everytime I was sick my football coaches would refuse to allow me on the field until I was deemed by a doctor,"cleared to play". The predominant reason I have gathered is that your heart takes an extra load of stress onto it, which most would see as unecessary.

Remember your heart is already under more pressure as it is now dealing with the sickness as well, nevermind it's protocol. It's got more jobs to do basically. If you go do a gym session, you'll see that you'll feel a lot weaker than usual, and will want to sleep more to recover.

I think it's dangerous. I know how you feel, I've had acute bacterial Broncitis for the last week, I havn't touched a dumbell or a ball in two. But the proof is that I've recovered a lot quicker than expected, and bypassed possible mneumonia in the process.

Don't put your heart under unnecessary stress. Well let's see what the doc says, I want to see his/her reply myself.


Reply to Sath

Have your say

Thanks for commenting! Your comment will appear on the site shortly.
Thanks for commenting! Your comment will appear on the site shortly.