We are well into winter, and many of us will succumb to colds and flues and will need to rest and recover before going back to exercise.

Others will be tempted to stay warm and cozy in bed feeling “unwell” by the thought of exercising in the cold of winter.

All of us, from time to time, will come in contact with something that will make us sick. Fortunately, if we have a healthy lifestyle, eat well and exercise, our body will recover quickly and easily.

Are you too sick to exercise or making excuses?

The general rule is; if symptoms occur around your neck and above, then it’s OK to do a light workout. If you’re sick below the neck, then it’s better to rest up and recover.

I will also add;  if your symptoms require you to take some medication for pain or congestion then its best to sit out the workout.

The combination of exercise and decongestants can cause your heart to pump harder making breathing problematic. It’s really not the best option for your health and well-being.

However, if your cold or flu symptoms aren’t severe, then light exercise won’t hurt your recovery, nor will it reduce the duration, but it can make you feel better, according to research published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

Conversely, for those of us who have a tendency to suffer “morning sickness” in winter, then perhaps the following will help you recognize the symptoms of an excuse:

  • Hitting the snooze button makes you feel instantly better and happy.
  • On waking you feel delighted and proud to have recovered so quickly from illness.
  • Develop a ravenous appetite for breakfast comfort food.
  • Start to feel guilty for missing the workout at about mid-morning.

Having said this, the taking of a mental health day from exercise in winter will not derail your fitness, and may even help you stay focused long term.

However, it is important to understand that a real cold or flu will run its course over several days.

Prevention is better than cure

The best old fashion advice that stands the test of time is: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Here are my 5 tips to help you stay healthy and feel better this winter:

  1. Eat a well-balanced diet. Including plenty of in-season fruit and vegetables, that are packed with nutrients specially designed for winter health.
  2. Keep hydrated. Start your day by drinking a cup of hot water. Water is absorbed through the body and not digested. It helps “flush” congestion and makes breathing a little easier. Continue drinking water during your day.
  3. Look after your gut health. More than 70 percent of our immune defenses reside in our gut; a good way to keep gut health is to enjoy a variety of foods that are naturally high in fiber and low in sugar, for example, whole grain foods and veggies!
  4. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is linked to immune suppression, and in winter the body needs a little more sleep to stay warm.  6 to 8 hours of sleep has shown to deliver the best mind and body benefits.
  5. Exercise!! Last but not least! Regular exercise strengthens your immune system by circulating nutrients around your body. Exercise releases endorphins that improve your mood making you feel more energetic and help you manage your weight. Best of all – exercise warms you up on the coldest of days!

Hooray for exercise!! If you would like to do something for your immune system this winter why not try our 9 minutes to fitness program? Click below for more information and to download your Free 9 minute workout.


Live well with fitness!

Written by Anna: Fitness and Nutrition Personal Trainer @SquareBoxFitness.com