Am I being a wuss? Should I just move around a little? Should I ‘sweat it out?’ Have I recovered enough, or will I just drag this out longer? What if I make someone else sick? How do I prevent this in the first place?
All great questions. The first rule of thumb is don’t force anything. If you are just plain exhausted, listen to your body and rest and drink fluids. There is a ‘neck down’ rule that states that if things are bad from the neck down (nausea or vomiting, coughing, body aches) then back away from exercise. Lay low if you have a fever – you don’t need to further increase your temperature. Some decongestants will increase your heart rate, so walk instead of run. Same if you feel bronchial tightness. But a walk in the sunshine and some deep breathing might make you feel better if you simply have a stuffy nose and sniffles. Movement may benefit you, open some of the congested air passages and improve circulation and immune cell delivery to the site of infection.
Other types of exercise that may be beneficial depending on your mood and stage are Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga (not a terribly strenuous kind), Pilates, stretching, or a dance/fitness class. There can all be done at a gentler level and individually, thus avoiding transmitting germs by hand or common surface contact. Cold viruses can survive infectiously on hard surfaces for about 24 hrs. Also, some bad news here is that you are contagious with rhinoviruses from 1-2 days before your symptoms show until ALL your symptoms are gone. (Flu and stomach virus info here. )
Avoid intense or prolonged running as for marathon training, swimming (might be too cold? personal choice), biking (might dry out mucous membranes? personal choice), team sports (where you pass items around), weight training in a club (with common equipment), or being outdoors if there is a risk of getting cold. It’s important to maintain a constant body temperature for your immune system to work optimally.
Interestingly, the two ends of the exercises spectrum: both sedentary and intense prolonged exercise (ie marathoners) showed higher susceptibility to viral infection risk. However moderate exercise is thought to increase your resistance to illness, so keep moving (and wash your hands a lot).