When you're sick, it's important to take the time to rest and allow your body to recover. Unfortunately, that means lots of time spent in bed. However, there are other times when you may just be a bit under the weather, but you are still going about your normal day-to-day routine.
When you still feel up to doing your normal daily routine, but not a full workout, incorporating some light stretching and yoga may help you feel a bit better.
This guide explains some stretches and yoga poses that can help you feel better when you're sick.
Exercise and Sickness - Should you be resting or is there a benefit?
Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Even if you do not have a fever and otherwise feel okay, it's best to review your symptoms and medical history with your doctor and follow their guidance.
Regardless of your other symptoms, WebMD cites, "A fever is the limiting factor. The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever because that can make you even sicker."
In short, if in doubt, rest. Otherwise, call your doctor and explain what you'd like to do and get his or her feedback.
5 Yoga Poses for When You're Sick
If you've been cooped up in bed or on the couch all day, then certain stretches can feel like sweet relief for tight muscles. Here's a short routine that will help stretch your muscles from head to toe.
The Immune System and Exercise
Regardless of whether you're stuck in bed with the flu or have a minor head cold, the body releases the hormone cortisol to help fight infection and limit inflammation. In short bursts, cortisol is helpful.
However, if heightened levels of cortisol are sustained over an extended period of time, they hurt more than they help. Higher stress levels may result in anxiety, depression, and a weakened immune system according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If you're feeling under the weather and already stressed, now may be an excellent time to consider adding yoga to your daily or weekly routine. Yoga has shown to play an effective role in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression in women, based on a 2018 study.
5 Best Stretches for Cold and Flu Symptoms
Here are four stretches that can help you feel better when you're sick. These stretches target some of the most common areas of discomfort when you're feeling ill.
Left and Right Neck Stretch
Standing Forward Bend
Seated or Supine Spinal Twist
Other Tips for Recovery
Take a hot shower before stretching
Although most people shower after they exercise, taking a warm shower before doing any stretches, while sick, accomplishes two things. For one, the steam will help to open up your nasal passages and make it easier to breathe.
Secondly, if you have been lying around all day, the warm water will help to get the blood flowing to your muscles. While it doesn't have the same effect as a hot yoga room, the heat from the shower will help to loosen up your muscles a bit and help you get a deeper stretch.
Drink plenty of fluids and electrolytes
A runny nose, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms can drain your body of needed fluids and electrolytes. Ensure you're getting plenty of water and electrolytes from your food or with an electrolyte replacement supplement. If you're having GI (gastrointestinal, bowel) issues, then you may want to stick with Pedialyte, as it has less sugar and will be easier on your stomach.
Avoid the yoga studio
As tempting as it may be when you're only feeling a bit under the weather, avoid close contact with others until you've been cleared by your doctor. Confined areas, like a yoga studio, may make it easier for certain illnesses to spread and infect others.
If you're feeling sick, it's important to consult with your doctor before doing any yoga, stretches, or exercise. However, some basic stretches can help relieve discomfort and make you feel better if you're feeling up to it. Be sure to stay hydrated and avoid close contact with others until you're feeling better.
Can stretches and yoga help when you're sick?
Yes, yoga and other stretches can help relieve minor cold and flu symptoms for some individuals.
What are some stretches or yoga poses that can help when you're sick?
A simple neck stretch to the left or right can improve circulation and relieve stiffness. Additionally, child's pose, standing forward bend, seated or supine spinal twist, camel pose, cat-cow pose, and happy baby are excellent choices to relieve discomfort.
What other tips can help when you're trying to recover from being sick?
Drinking plenty of fluids and electrolytes is crucial when you're sick. You may also want to take a hot shower before stretching as the heat can help loosen your muscles. Finally, it's important to avoid close contact with others until you're feeling better to prevent the spread of germs.
1. Bone, M.and J.T. (2021) What happens when your immune system gets stressed out?, Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-your-immune-system-gets-stressed-out/ (Accessed: October 31, 2022).
2. Exercising when sick: A good move? (2007) WebMD. WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/exercising-when-sick (Accessed: October 31, 2022).
3. Shohani, M. et al. (2018) The effect of yoga on stress, anxiety, and depression in women, International journal of preventive medicine. Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5843960/ (Accessed: October 31, 2022).