How Long After Illness Can I Exercise (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Wait 24 Hours Before Working Out

There’s a time and place for everything. You may have to exercise when you’re sick, but the question is, how soon after an illness can you start? If it’s just a cold or flu virus, then there should be no problem with exercising at either light or moderate intensity in about 24 hours as long as your fever has gone down. 

However, if it is something more serious like pneumonia, Ebola, or AIDS/HIV, then don’t go near that gym until at least 7-10 days after symptoms disappear because any physical activity will make those nasty viruses come back faster! Read below to know more!

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How Long After Illness Can I Exercise?

IllnessRecovery Time
Respiratory illness2 Weeks
Fever or Flu2-5 days

Exercise can be a valuable medicine in the treatment of different ailments, including muscle pains and fatigue. 

Although research is still ongoing to determine if there’s a time limit for when people can exercise after an illness, typically, most don’t have any issues with exercising following recovery from the flu. In general, doctors will recommend waiting some time to see how your body reacts before engaging in strenuous exercise after you recover.

No one is in 100% shape on the day they finish their illness. So it’s important to give your body a chance to heal after being sick, so you don’t do any more damage than necessary. 

If you exercise too soon, the inflammation can start back up immediately and make it worse. 

Illness

If you want an easy way to know how long after an illness it is safe for exercise, take a look at your toes or nails. If you see some white spots or find that they are starting to peel – this means that things are going well, and there should be minimal risk of doing more harm than good if you start an intense workout routine now.

Research is still ongoing to find out if there’s a best practice regarding how long you should wait between bouts of intense exercise following an illness. But in general, it may be safe and beneficial for people who commonly engage in vigorous activity (i.e., athletes).

Why Should You Wait So Long To Exercise After Illness?

For the same reason, you should wait after a big meal before exercising. It takes time for your gut to pass food, so if you exercise too soon, digestion is slowed down, and the body will need more energy to digest. 

The risk of injury also increases as muscles can tighten from lack of use which only worsens recovery. Once you are well, it’s always advised to gradually increase intensity over a week or two when exercising again.

Exercise doesn’t have toxin-removing properties in contrast with other forms of detox (e.g. sweating, bowel elimination), but it does support immune system function by increasing white blood cells and lymphocytes that do help remove toxic substances from the tissues.

Exercise is great for your brain. There’s plenty of evidence that physical exercise can improve mood and memory performance and provide a feeling of well-being and happiness. Of course, when you’re ill or recovering from an illness, the last thing you feel like doing is going for a 15 minutes jog, but it will help strengthen your immune system to get you on the road to recovery sooner than if you don’t exercise at all. 

Exercise

Exercise also releases endorphins which counteract feelings of pain or discomfort while passing time during a down period where there isn’t anything else to do; it’s not always easy choosing between recovery and sitting around feeling sick until it’s time to go back to routine. Also, it is worth noting that it depends on the type of exercise you do!

Conclusion

The answer to the question lies in your specific exercise routine. Whether you’re doing light cardio or heavy lifting, if it involves a lot of sweating and heat production–you need to wait at least three days before engaging in physical activity again. 

If you’re not putting yourself through rigorous workouts, then there is no harm-no foul when it comes to exercising sooner after 24 hours of illness!   

It’s normal to want some peace and quiet when you’re ill or recovering from an injury – but don’t take it too far by avoiding exercise altogether. Doing so could even cause problems down the road as muscles weaken without use over time, leading to chronic pain issues.

References

  1. https://www.proquest.com/openview/e98632e580d617bb84138dda606175bc/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=4718 
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/016756999680538X 

Last Updated : 23 February, 2024

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26 thoughts on “How Long After Illness Can I Exercise (And Why)?”

  1. Exercise is indeed beneficial, but it’s valuable to have guidelines on when to start after being ill. Thanks for the information!

  2. Avatar of Taylor Victoria
    Taylor Victoria

    I never knew that exercising too soon after being sick can actually worsen inflammation. Thank you for sharing this important information.

  3. The advice about waiting three days before engaging in physical activity again was particularly useful. It’s specific and actionable.

  4. This aspect of the recovery process is often ignored. It’s important to know that muscles can tighten from lack of use after being ill.

  5. I appreciate the article’s insights into the connection between exercise and immune system function. Very interesting!

  6. Avatar of Martin Roberts
    Martin Roberts

    It’s a balancing act, and this article provides helpful context around the relationship between illness and exercise.

  7. I appreciate the science-backed understanding of why it’s important to wait before exercising after being ill.

  8. I disagree with the article. I believe exercising after being ill can be beneficial, even sooner than the suggested timeframes.

    1. I respectfully disagree. Recovery is important before exercising, and the article provides valuable insight on that.

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