Have you ever decided that you wanted to get into shape or work your way toward a new fitness goal and then went all in only to lose motivation shortly thereafter?

Perhaps you started out excited and enthusiastic and then veered off of your diet, programming or maybe even got injured.

Whether you’re thinking about starting a new workout program or setting up new fitness goals, it’s important to ease into an exercise program for a few main reasons.

Table of Contents

Less is more

Group of millennial sportive people doing squatting exercise standing on violet rubber carpets mats at gym studio rear side view. Girls and guys performing crouching, work on buttocks and hips muscles

Exercise is a way to apply stress to your body in order to get it to adapt to a specific stimulus – meaning different types of activity based on your personal goals.

If you want to make the most out of a workout program, then it may be best to think of exercise as a tool that you can manipulate in order to elicit the results that you want.

Giving it your all is great… as long as you work your way up according to your fitness level.

Everyone generally has a different fitness level, even when it comes to team sports.

Just because one person can run a mile easily after training for a few weeks doesn’t mean that you’ll progress at the same rate.

We all have different lifestyles, routines, genetics, personal preferences for the types of activities that we enjoy, and varying diets.

So it stands to reason that each of our bodies will probably react differently when it comes to exercise.

This is why it’s important to pay attention to your limits and start from where you’re at, not where you want to be.

If you’re starting out with a goal to get stronger, that means don’t go in and try to lift as much weight as you possibly can, as this could lead to potential injuries.

Instead, the best approach is to do a little bit at a time and gradually increase the amount of activity that you’re doing in addition to making it more challenging as your body adapts.

You can do this by using the principle of progressive overload.

Progressive overload

Whenever you’re undertaking a fitness goal, it’s important to start with a light to moderate amount of intensity and work your way up slowly.

This will give your soft tissues and central nervous system time to adapt to the new stress being applied to your body.

All stress isn’t bad.

Exercise is a type of stressor that can be applied in moderation to elicit results by improving your level of fitness, body composition, and metabolic health.

When you exercise, you’re sending a message to your body that it’s working and needs to become more efficient at what it’s doing so that next time it won’t have to work as hard.

This is where progressive overload comes in. If you do too much at once, it can cause too much stress, and ultimately set you back.

For instance, if you’re not used to running and decided to go for a 3 mile run it might feel like your legs are going to fall off and your lungs are going to explode.

Although that wouldn’t be the case, the shock to your body wouldn’t feel great and could cause more harm than good.

By using progressive overload, you gradually increase the level of difficulty from a level that you can handle to a slightly more challenging level as the activity gets a little easier over time.

In doing so, it keeps your body adapting and improving.

If you do too much and cause excessive wear and tear too soon, you may run the risk of actually setting yourself back by hindering your recovery.

And let’s face it, nobody wants to get stuck in a cycle of healing rather than improving.

Neglecting progressive overload can lead to a loss of motivation, fatigue, a depressed immune system, and injuries.

Give yourself time to adjust

Easing into a workout program gives you the time that you and your body need to physically and mentally adjust to a new routine.

Working out too intensely for your fitness level can actually lead to boredom and training plateaus.

If you start out doing more than you need to at the beginning of a workout program, it leaves little for you to adjust along the way, which can result in boredom and a decline in adaptation.

By giving yourself adequate time to make small changes in your lifestyle, you’re likely to see greater results and to be more consistent in the long run.

One of the best things you can do in starting a new program is to take baby steps and add a little at a time.

You can gradually modify the amount of work you’re doing by changing up your routine every 2-4 weeks. There are several workout variables that you can manipulate, such as

  • The amount of weight you’re lifting
  • Number of sets you’re doing per exercise and per workout
  • The number of reps per exercise, per set and per workout
  • Number of workouts you’re doing per week or month
  • Your rest periods between sets and workouts
  • The tempo you’re using on a specific exercise
  • Exercise selection
  • And the list goes on…

In choosing to manipulate one variable at a time, it allows your body to adapt safely in order to get the most out of what you’re doing and reap the best results.

Trying to make a lot of changes at once can be overwhelming and overload your system in a detrimental way.

When you take it slowly and make gradual changes, it gives you time to make improvements that you can build upon.

Rushing into something new may seem exciting and start off as a great idea. But it can lead to overdoing it and sabotaging your recovery.

Easing in will give you time to recover from the new stress being applied to your body.

Our bodies are smart, and they want to get better and adapt to new situations.

So, you can keep your body responding, i.e. getting results, by continuing to introduce different variables in order to facilitate adaptation.

This is one of the reasons that goal-setting can be so helpful in achieving your fitness goals.


It’s understandable that when you first start you may have your ultimate goal in mind.

However, working toward your final goal without setting smaller and more attainable goals along the way can potentially sabotage your progress and success.

By setting smaller, more achievable and realistic goals you can keep yourself on track and build confidence along the way.

Smaller goals could be:

  • Doing 3 workouts in a week
  • Jogging for 1 minute and walking for 2 minutes for a total of 20 minutes
  • Focusing on your form for one exercise
  • Doing 12 workouts in a month
  • Working out with a personal trainer once a week for a month

Your goals will be based on what you’re ultimately trying to achieve.

If you want to get stronger and be more athletic then perhaps finding a coach could be one of your smaller goals.

Maybe you’re just trying to be more consistent with your workouts. Then finding a workout buddy or joining a group class and making a gym friend could be another smaller goal.

Focusing on improving your technique or form is another way to work toward your fitness goal incrementally.

This will benefit you way more than just going all out and trying to do as much as you possibly can so that you walk out of the gym feeling destroyed.

If you only focus on your ultimate goal, it can be discouraging when things don’t work out exactly as planned.

So, to ensure that you have smaller things you’re working toward on your way to your big goal can increase your likelihood of success by giving you milestones to focus on along the way.

Final thoughts

Regardless of whether you’re trying to lose fat, build muscle, increase your endurance or just want to improve your overall fitness it’s important to start slow and build gradually.

It will help you to stick with it through building consistency, enhance your confidence, and produce better results in the long-run.

“In January, I see an increase in patients with wrist sprains and other hand injuries caused by improper weight-lifting,” Liberman said in the news release.

“Keep your wrist straight when lifting weights,” she said. “Many people tend to bend the wrist in or let it fall back, which can increase their risk of a sprain or other injury.”

It’s a good idea to work with a personal trainer for a few weight-lifting sessions to help you develop good form for your wrists and back, Liberman said. She also suggested switching among workout routines.

“Rotating routines helps prevent overuse injuries and increases overall fitness because of the use of many different muscles,” she said. “For example, do yoga on Monday, running on Wednesday and weight-lifting on Friday.”

Overuse injuries also can be prevented by increasing your flexibility, so you should stretch after every workout, Harris said.

“It’s important to pay attention to workouts,” he said. “Study good form and let muscles rest. It might take a little longer to get results, but in the end it will prevent injuries.”

— Robert Preidt

10 tips for exercising safely

Almost anybody can safely take up walking, and light to moderate exercise is usually fine for healthy adults with no troublesome symptoms. But do you need to talk to your doctor before taking on a more strenuous regimen? It’s wise to talk to a doctor if you have any questions about your health or plan to start more vigorous workouts, especially if you haven’t been active recently.

Definitely talk to a doctor if you have any injuries or a chronic or unstable health condition, such as heart disease or several risk factors for heart disease, a respiratory ailment like asthma, high blood pressure, joint or bone disease (including osteoporosis), a neurological illness, or diabetes. Also consult your doctor if you suspect you may have an illness that would interfere with an exercise program or if you have been experiencing any troublesome symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness.

10 tips for avoiding injuries

Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead to exercise, the tips below can help you avoid injuries:

  1. Take five to 10 minutes to warm up and cool down properly.
  2. Plan to start slowly and boost your activity level gradually unless you are already exercising frequently and vigorously.
  3. Be aware that training too hard or too often can cause overuse injuries like stress fractures, stiff or sore joints and muscles, and inflamed tendons and ligaments. Sports prompting repetitive wear and tear on certain parts of your body — such as swimming (shoulders), jogging (knees, ankles, and feet), tennis (elbows) — are often overuse culprits, too. A mix of different kinds of activities and sufficient rest is safer.
  4. Listen to your body. Hold off on exercise when you’re sick or feeling very fatigued. Cut back if you cannot finish an exercise session, feel faint after exercise or fatigued during the day, or suffer persistent aches and pains in joints after exercising.
  5. If you stop exercising for a while, drop back to a lower level of exercise initially. If you’re doing strength training, for example, lift lighter weights or do fewer reps or sets.
  6. For most people, simply drinking plenty of water is sufficient. But if you’re working out especially hard or doing a marathon or triathlon, choose drinks that replace fluids plus essential electrolytes.
  7. Choose clothes and shoes designed for your type of exercise. Replace shoes every six months as cushioning wears out.
  8. For strength training, good form is essential. Initially use no weight, or very light weights, when learning the exercises. Never sacrifice good form by hurrying to finish reps or sets, or struggling to lift heavier weights.
  9. Exercising vigorously in hot, humid conditions can lead to serious overheating and dehydration. Slow your pace when the temperature rises above 70°F. On days when the thermometer is expected to reach 80°F, exercise during cooler morning or evening hours or at an air-conditioned gym. Watch for signs of overheating, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, faintness, cramps, or palpitations.
  10. Dress properly for cold-weather workouts to avoid hypothermia. Depending on the temperature, wear layers you can peel off as you warm up. Don’t forget gloves.

Delayed muscle soreness that starts 12 to 24 hours after a workout and gradually abates is a normal response to taxing your muscles. By contrast, persistent or intense muscle pain that starts during a workout or right afterward, or muscle soreness that persists more than one to two weeks, merits a call to your doctor for advice.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

5 of the Best Exercises You Can Do When You’re Sick

You’ll more than likely get a few dirty looks if you’re the one sneezing, sniffling, and coughing at the gym. While your commitment to your exercise routine is admirable, and we understand that you want to get your cardio and strength training in, there are a few general guidelines on exercising when you’re sick. Life by DailyBurn said you should be fine to continue activity if you have cold-like symptoms. If you suspect you may have a stomach bug or you’re running a fever, though, it’s better to rest up.

If you’re not feeling horrendous and are still determined to hit the gym, we have a few of the best exercises you can perform. Try these moves out the next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather.

1. Walking

Walking is a great exercise to do when you’re sick. | iStock.com

If running or HIIT cardio is typically on the roster for your daily exercise routine, consider lowering the intensity to a walk. CNN explains that even a slight head cold can make you feel significantly less energetic, but you can reap the same benefits by just walking for as little as 20 minutes. Walking is particularly great for clearing your sinuses, as you take deeper breaths when you walk, and this helps open up your nasal passages.

If walking still feels too mundane for you cardio-hungry gym goers, then jogging is still fine as long as you scale the intensity back a bit. Jogging will help decongest you, so it can actually be beneficial if you have a cold. If you’re feeling nauseous or vomiting, however, definitely hold off.

2. Yoga

Do some downward dog. | iStock.com

Yoga is perfect for meditation, flexibility, and even strength training. Because yoga is low impact and can be fairly relaxed, you can perform this exercise without pushing yourself too hard. According to National Geographic, studies have shown yoga to have restorative benefits. You’ll feel more relaxed after a 20- to 30-minute yoga session, and this stress-relieving exercise can help boost your immunity as well. You can also perform more difficult yoga poses if you’re finding strength training with weights too strenuous when you’re ill.

Shape shows some great yoga poses to perform when you’re feeling sick, including simple inversions that help move lymph fluid and immune cells through the body. There are also chest opening exercises that may help you take deeper breaths. Even a classic and relaxing stretch like downward dog helps to clear your sinuses.

3. Using a recumbent bike

Man working out on bike | iStock.com

Getting to your spin class may be impossible when you’re feeling crummy, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up biking altogether. A recumbent bike, which is a stationary bike that sits lower to the ground, is a good option. Active explains the recumbent bike offers more support to your lower back due to the way you are seated, and because your legs are out in front of you, there’s a lot less stress on your knees and ankles. While the recumbent bike may seem easier to use than a traditional upright bike or other cardio machine, it offers you that good cardio workout you’re looking for without the super high intensity.

4. Qigong

Qigong is perfect to practice when you’re feeling ill. | iStock.com

You may not be familiar with this practice, but if you’re a lover of yoga, meditation, or martial arts, then you have to try qigong. The Wall Street Journal explains this practice is closely related to tai chi, though it’s not as heavy on the martial arts. Qigong is gentle, simple to perform, and somewhat repetitive, making it easy to learn. It’s the perfect exercise to perform when you’re feeling under the weather. You’ll feel more energized, your balance will improve, and once you’re finished, your mood is likely to feel uplifted. Whether you’re sick or not, qigong is a practice that you’ll want to consider taking part in, as it has plenty of health benefits that will help heal and repair your body when you’re ill.

5. Water aerobics

Water aerobics are a good option. | iStock.com

While swimming laps and getting a tough, total-body workout in the pool may be your preferred method of exercise, you should slow down when you’re sick. Medical Daily explains water aerobics are easy on the joints, can still increase your muscular strength and endurance, and won’t have you huffing and puffing the same way swimming laps would.

The gentler speed of water aerobics is ideal if you’re suffering from nasal congestion and having trouble regulating your breathing. The moisture in the air is also helpful for your nasal passages. Save your tough workouts for when you’re in optimal health, and try out this easier aerobic exercise to keep your body moving when you’re not feeling your best.

Working Out While Sick: Good or Bad?

While exercising is generally harmless when you have a mild cold or earache, working out when you are experiencing any of the following symptoms is not recommended.

When you have a fever, your body temperature rises above its normal range, which hovers around 98.6°F (37°C). A fever can be caused by many things, but it’s most commonly triggered by a bacterial or viral infection (12, 13).

Fevers can cause unpleasant symptoms like weakness, dehydration, muscle aches and loss of appetite.

Working out while you’re feverish increases the risk of dehydration and can make a fever worse.

Additionally, having a fever decreases muscle strength and endurance and impairs precision and coordination, increasing the risk of injury (14).

For these reasons, it’s best to skip the gym when you have a fever.

Productive or Frequent Cough

An occasional cough is a normal response to irritants or fluids in the body’s airways, and it helps keep the body healthy.

However, more frequent episodes of coughing can be a symptom of a respiratory infection like a cold, flu or even pneumonia.

While a cough associated with a tickle in the throat isn’t a reason to skip the gym, a more persistent cough can be a sign you need to rest.

Although a dry, sporadic cough may not impair your ability to perform certain exercises, a frequent, productive cough is reason to skip a workout.

A persistent cough can make it difficult to take a deep breath, particularly when your heart rate rises during exercise. This makes you more likely to become short of breath and fatigued.

A productive cough that brings up phlegm or sputum may be a sign of infection or another medical condition that requires rest and should be treated by a doctor (15).

Furthermore, coughing is one of the main ways illnesses like the flu are spread. By going to the gym when you have a cough, you’re putting fellow gym-goers at risk of being exposed to your germs.

Stomach Bug

Illnesses that affect the digestive system, such as the stomach flu, can cause serious symptoms that make working out off-limits.

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, stomach cramping and decreased appetite are all common symptoms associated with stomach bugs.

Diarrhea and vomiting put you at risk of dehydration, which physical activity worsen (16).

Feeling weak is common when you have a stomach ailment, increasing the chance of injury during a workout.

What’s more, many stomach illnesses like the stomach flu are highly contagious and can be easily spread to others (17).

If you are feeling restless during a stomach illness, light stretching or yoga at home are the safest options.

Flu Symptoms

Influenza is a contagious illness that impacts the respiratory system.

The flu causes symptoms like fever, chills, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, headache, cough and congestion.

The flu can be mild or severe, depending on the level of infection, and may even cause death in serious cases (18).

Although not every person who gets the flu will experience a fever, those who do are at an increased risk of dehydration, making working out a bad idea.

Though the majority of people recover from the flu in less than two weeks, choosing to engage in intense workouts while sick may prolong the flu and delay your recovery.

This is because engaging in higher-intensity activity like running or a spin class temporarily suppresses the body’s immune response (19).

Plus, the flu is a highly contagious virus that is spread primarily through tiny droplets people with the flu release into the air when they talk, cough or sneeze.

If you are diagnosed with the flu, it’s best to take it easy and avoid exercise while you’re experiencing symptoms.

Summary If you are experiencing symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea or a productive cough, taking time off from the gym may be the best option for both your own recovery and the safety of others.

12 Tips for a Speedy Flu Recovery

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Flu symptoms typically last about a week, but the most severe symptoms only occur for two to three days (though it might feel like an eternity). You might continue to experience fatigue, weakness, and a cough for another week after you recover.

Coming down with the flu can be downright miserable. Here are 12 tips to help you recover more quickly.

1. Stay home

Your body needs time and energy to fight off the flu virus, which means that your daily routine should be put on the backburner.

You may be tempted to go grocery shopping or get ahead on laundry for the week, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice. Stay home from work or school, and put errands on hold until you start to feel better.

On top of helping you recover, staying home also prevents spreading the flu to other people in your community or workplace. The flu can be dangerous for older adults and small children, so it’s vital that you avoid contact with others while you’re contagious.

2. Hydrate

One symptom of the flu is a high fever, which can lead to sweating. You might also be dealing with bouts of vomiting or diarrhea. Your body needs plenty of fluids to replace lost liquids, and even more to fight off the infection.

Water is best, but you can also drink herbal teas or tea with honey. These can have a soothing effect on your symptoms while keeping you hydrated. Two things you should always avoid, though, are alcohol and caffeine.

3. Sleep as much as possible

Sleep is the best medicine for your body while fighting the flu. Watching TV curled up on the couch isn’t a bad idea, but you shouldn’t be binge-watching your favorite Netflix show all night long.

Go to bed earlier than usual and sleep in. You can also take a nap during the day to give your body more time to recover.

Rest and sleep also reduces your risk of serious flu complications, like pneumonia.

4. Ease your breathing

It can be difficult to sleep with a stuffy nose and cough. Try these tips to breathe easier and have a better night’s sleep:

  • Use an extra pillow to prop up your head and ease sinus pressure.
  • Sleep with a humidifier or vaporizer in the room.
  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed.

5. Eat healthy foods

You may be tempted to drown your sorrow in a bowl of ice cream and a bag of potato chips, but your body needs better nutrition to recover from the flu.

Fresh fruits and vegetables provide important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that strengthen your immune system as it fights off the virus.

You might not have much of an appetite, but it’s still important to eat regular meals to maintain your strength.

6. Add moisture to the air

Dry air can make your symptoms worse. A vaporizer or humidifier adds moisture to the air and can help loosen up congestion.

There are many types of humidifiers and vaporizers available on the market. Examples include cool-mist humidifiers and steam vaporizers. These can be found easily for a reasonable price at your local big-box store, pharmacy, or online.

7. Take OTC medications

The cold and flu aisle of your local drug store is most likely packed with hundreds of different options. Some medications are used to deal with specific symptoms, like nasal congestion, while others treat many flu symptoms at once.

  • Pain relievers help reduce a fever, headache, and body aches. Examples include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Decongestants, like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), help open your nasal passages and relieve pressure in your sinuses.
  • Cough suppressants, such as dextromethorphan (Robitussin), can be used to soothe a dry cough.
  • Expectorants helps loosen thick mucus and are useful for a cough that is wet and produces mucus.
  • Antihistamines tend to have sedative effects that may help you sleep.

Be sure to read the product’s label to learn the correct dose for each type of medication and to make sure you’re not accidentally combining medications. Medications like DayQuil are both a pain reliever and a fever reducer, so you shouldn’t be taking another medication on top of that.

Children and teens should never take aspirin for the flu due to the risk of a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.

8. Try elderberry

Elderberry has been used for hundreds of years in the treatment of colds and the flu.

In one placebo-controlled study, people with the flu who consumed elderberry lozenges four times a day experienced a reduction in fever, headache, muscle aches, nasal congestion, and cough after 48 hours.

In another study, 60 people with flu-like symptoms who ingested 15 milliliters of elderberry syrup four times a day experienced improvement in their symptoms four days earlier than people who took a placebo.

A larger study in 312 air travelers found that 300 milligram capsules of elderberry extract taken three times per day reduced cold and flu symptoms and duration in those who ended up getting sick after their travels compared to a placebo group.

Elderberry capsules, lozenges, and syrups are available in stores or online. You shouldn’t eat raw elderberries, as they can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Remember, elderberry is a complementary therapy, so make sure you’re also treating the flu with OTC or prescription medication.

9. Have a spoonful of honey to soothe a cough

Honey is a fairly common natural remedy for soothing a sore throat or cough. Mixing honey with tea is a great way to stay hydrated while also treating your flu symptoms.

In one study, researchers found that a dose of honey was more effective at controlling a nighttime cough than common cough suppressants in children ages two to 18 years with upper respiratory tract infections.

One thing to note, though, is that you shouldn’t give honey to children who are younger than a year old.

10. Ask your doctor about antiviral drugs

Antiviral drugs are only available by prescription, so you must see a doctor first. These medications are typically reserved for people who are at high risk of developing complications from the flu.

These drugs prevent the virus from growing and replicating. They work best if you take them within 48 hours of having symptoms.

You may want to ask a doctor for a prescription antiviral if you:

  • are under age 5 (age 2, in particular)
  • are 18 or under and taking aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications
  • are at least 65
  • are pregnant or have given birth in the last two weeks
  • have a chronic medical condition or you’re taking other medications that weaken your immune system
  • live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • are Native American (American Indian or Alaska Native)
  • are extremely obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40

The antiviral medication most commonly prescribed is oseltamivir (Tamiflu). In October 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza), a new antiviral for people ages 12 and older.

Taking antiviral medications within two days of the onset of symptoms may reduce both the duration of the flu by about one day and the severity of symptoms.

11. Get a flu shot

The annual flu vaccine is produced based on scientists’ predictions of which flu strain will dominate the next flu season. Sometimes, though, they get it wrong. Getting a flu shot after you’ve already had the flu can protect you from other strains of the virus.

You might think it’s too late or that you can’t get the flu again in one season, but it’s still a possibility. So, it’s a good idea to protect yourself by getting vaccinated.

12. Stay positive

We often forget how much our emotions and attitudes affect how we feel physically. While you may not be able to unclog your stuffy nose or lower your fever with positive thoughts, maintaining a positive attitude during your illness may help in your overall recovery.

The bottom line

The best thing you can do to recover from the flu is allow yourself to sleep, rest, and drink lots of fluids. If you catch your flu symptoms early, and you’re at risk of serious complications, you can try an antiviral medication to help reduce the duration of your symptoms.

Most flu symptoms resolve within one to two weeks. If your flu symptoms start to get better and then get rapidly worse, or don’t subside after two weeks, contact your doctor.

9 Ways to Bounce Back After an Illness

Illness always comes at the worst possible time. You’re already so busy that taking the time necessary to properly heal after being out sick seems overwhelming. Now that you’re finally starting to feel better you want to get back to your life!

Starting up your regular routine again too hastily can often end up prolonging an illness or even put you right back in the sick bed again. Following these steps will help you return to work and life fully healed and healthy.

The Best Ways to Bounce Back After Being Sick

Take your time.
Be careful not to push yourself too hard too fast. Even though you’re beginning to feel better, treat yourself as though you are not. If you usually run every morning, start with a short walk. If you are concerned about work, allow yourself an hour to respond to urgent emails then close the computer and rest. Be mindful of how your body feels and pace yourself.
Write everything down.
It’s hard to not think of all of the work piling up while you’re sleeping the days away. But you’re only hurting yourself more by stressing about it when you should be focusing on healing. Take out a notepad and write a list of all the things you need to do when you’re better. If you’re feeling well enough, tackle a couple of them and cross them off the list. It will help relieve some of the pressure and worry.
Respond to people if you must, but keep it brief.
Whether replying to texts, emails, or calls, remember that everything you’re worried about isn’t as urgent as you think it is. Reply with something simple such as, “My apologies for the delayed reply, I have been ill. I will read your email thoroughly and respond accordingly as soon as possible.” It lets people know that you’re sick while buying yourself a little more time to formulate a more well-informed (and unclouded) response. Everyone has been sick at some point in their lives. They will understand.

Turn off those screens.
Phones, TVs, and tablets all emit blue light that causes strain on your eyes. Blue light is also linked to physical and mental fatigue; energy you should be reserving for healing. You may want to watch back-to-back episodes of Friends or scroll through social media, but it only distracts you from the self-care and rest you really need. Turn off the devices, make sure your room is dark and comfortable, and rest.
Chances are that you’ve spent a lot of time in bed the last few days. Your muscles and joints have probably become stiff and achy, and returning to your regular routine could be uncomfortable or even cause an injury. Start with some long, slow stretches to warm up your muscles again, such as:

  • Shoulder, wrist, and ankle rolls (forwards and backwards)
  • Neck rolls and slow twists to each side
  • Back stretches and twists
  • Gentle yoga poses (such as Cat/Cow, Happy Baby, Half Pigeon)

Make sure to hold each stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and breathe deeply in between each movement.

Make a green smoothie.
If you’re just starting to get your appetite back, or your throat has finally stopped hurting so badly, you will probably be excited to start eating real food again. Right now, its vital for your body to get a wide variety of nutrients to rev up your systems. Start with these smoothie basics, but opt for water, coconut water, or herbal tea as your base instead of milk. Dairy will coat your throat and promote mucus production which you will want to avoid. Anti-inflammatory ingredients will speed up the healing process as well.

Drink hot water with True Lemon.
A cup of plain hot water (rather than tea) goes a long way in re-balancing your body. Many cultures believe that warm water is better to drink than cold as its more easily absorbed by our naturally warm bodies. Since after an illness there is a good chance that you’re dehydrated, every little bit helps with replenishing the water in your body. Add True Lemon and increase the alkalizing effects.

Practice meditation and deep breathing.
This is a great time to start a meditation practice and strengthen your mind. Energize your body by taking big deep rejuvenating breaths and visualize a warm restorative light within you. The mind is very powerful when it comes to healing! This app provides wonderful guidance for beginning meditation.
Eat restorative foods.
Just as with that nutrient-dense smoothie, your body needs extra vitamins and minerals during this time. Eat a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables, avoid dairy for a little while, and increase your intake of water, anti-inflammatory foods, and whole foods that are easy to digest. Chew every bite thoroughly to increase absorption of all those good nutrients! Also, avoid drinking alcohol for at least 2-weeks during the healing process. Alcohol will slow your recovery time, and can conflict with certain prescriptions and antibiotics.

As always, consult your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist for expert advice. When recovering from an illness its best to ease your way back in by taking baby steps when returning to work, life, and fitness routines. You’ll bounce back in no time!

What to do when you have had the flu?

Caroline Foran: This winter, chances are either you or someone you know (or your entire household, for that matter) have found themselves utterly floored from the flu. A country-wide epidemic, this season’s “killer flu” has seen countless patients hospitalised, while an unforeseen number of Irish people have sadly died from the virus.

Lest we need any reminders, a bad bout of influenza – not to be confused with a light head cold – is something to be taken very seriously. Upon diagnosis, you’ll take to the bed, relying on the likes of paracetamol to control your fluctuating temperature, while a high intake of liquids should see you through the worst of it.

Unlike other 48-hour illnesses, a proper whack of the flu can leave you bedridden for up to two weeks. Where most people run into dangerous territory, however, is the assumption that the flu is something you can bounce straight back from, in the same way you might recover from a stomach bug. Thing is, it’s during this “am I, am I not okay” phase of post-flu frustration, where we run the risk of triggering a relapse, or worse still, pneumonia. You might feel better, and you might be fed up, but the sickness has not yet run its course.

Not ones to wallow in our illness, we Irish return to work too soon, wearing our recovery like a badge of honour. We rarely give ourselves the adequate amount of time needed to fully restore equilibrium in our bodies, diving into work projects, killing it at the gym in the hopes of “kick-starting” our immune systems and essentially burning the candle at both ends.


CF: First thing’s first, it’s of paramount importance that we understand what’s happening inside our bodies and why such patience is required.

Kaman Ryan: After a bout of flu, our bodies are depleted in several ways. First, and arguably most importantly, is that we may be dehydrated.

This is particularly important to watch out for if you have had a sore throat or upset stomach, or anything else that meant your usual intake of food and liquids was reduced. Even mild dehydration will seriously inhibit recovery, and severe dehydration is a serious medical issue that can require emergency intervention.

Second, fighting the flu puts the body’s systems under a level of prolonged general strain that can mean vitamin and mineral levels are below where they would normally be. Again, this is particularly important to beware of if you have been unable to eat and drink normally while sick. It is important, as soon as you are able, to eat nutrient-dense foods: the obvious, basic ones are a good way to start.

Bananas for lost electrolytes, fruit (especially citrus) for vitamin C, garlic for natural antibacterial and antiviral protection, and if you can get it, a good bone broth for, among other things, replacing minerals and salts. Even if you don’t usually take one, a good multivitamin can be a useful supplement at this point. Green tea, ginger, and turmeric are all used to improve circulation and regain vitality.

CF: And this is the clincher:

KR: Remember this; because your system is run down after the flu, you will be more susceptible than usual to catching something else. This can be particularly true if you were sleeping poorly during your illness. So, while a little sunlight and fresh air can help you feel better after being stuck inside, go easy and make sure you are well wrapped up and rested.


CF: For the most part, you will have to ride out the flu alone. However, if you’ve had an added infection, such as in your chest or sinuses or throat, you may have been prescribed antibiotics. While these can often be miracle-workers for attacking the infection in question, they can leave your body reeling long after their job is done. Being mindful of this, if you had to take antibiotics yourself, is key.

KR: The downside of antibiotics is that they come with collateral damage, done to the good bacteria your body uses and needs every day for innumerable internal processes. This doesn’t mean anyone should ever ignore a doctor’s advice to take antibiotics, but does mean that, in addition to recovering from the effects of a cold or flu, if you took antibiotics your system must also rebuild its bacteriological makeup.

How quickly this happens is very near impossible to measure, and there are myriad medical opinions on the subject. But it is relatively uncontroversial to say that a full recovery of “good” bacteria after a course of antibiotics depends on a number of variables, including your age, general level of health, type of antibiotics (there are many different types) and how long or aggressive the course of antibiotics was.

There is also a view that the bacterial make-up within a person is influenced by factors including where they live (eg whether in a city or in the country), what type of environment they work in, etc.

Acidophilus is classified as a “good” bacteria found in the intestines (in particular the bacteria responsible for synthesizing Vitamin K – important for blood health) and is considered essential to a properly functioning digestive system, so it is often recommended as a supplement following a course of antibiotics in order to return healthy levels of the bacteria to the digestive system as quickly as possible.

Live yoghurts and fermented soy products (like miso) are considered natural sources of live good bacteria, and if you have undergone a particularly aggressive course of antibiotics or feel especially run down following antibiotics, there are numerous supplements in good health food stores that contain multiple strains of healthy bacteria.

However, for most people following moderate courses of antibiotics, normal life will restore lost bacteria over time – aided of course by eating nutrient dense food to encourage general digestive and overall health.

One word of caution on probiotics: anyone who is still ill or has a compromised immune system should talk to a doctor before taking any probiotic.

In my own experience, long-term noticeable effects relating to loss of “good” bacteria from taking antibiotics are very rare. The supplements mentioned above can certainly aid the process but in general, your bacterial make-up should self-restore within a few weeks after finishing a moderate course of antibiotics.

If you experience particular continuing stomach or other symptoms that you think might be related to having undergone a course of antibiotics, it is probably wise to discuss with the prescribing doctor, as it may be something other than a “good” bacteria issue.”


CF: If you’re an avid gym-goer, you’ll find it even more frustrating to be told to take it easy, but after a flu, you need to be mindful of where you’re body’s at.

KR: Again, this really depends on age, level of general health and fitness, and how bad the cold and flu was. I think the most important thing to emphasize is that people should listen to their bodies.

If you are recovering from a flu and don’t feel 100 per cent, don’t let the fact that it’s January and you swore you were going to run three times a week jeopardize your health. You will not be doing your resolutions any favours by relapsing or catching something new. In addition, being tired and run down makes you more susceptible to injury.

A general rule of thumb is that you should not work out again at all until you have felt 100 per cent back to normal for three days (in a row). Even then, ease yourself back in to avoid any nasty surprises (like an injury or dizzy spell due to lingering dehydration). Again, a lot of this comes back to hydration – makes sure you have been able to take in plenty of salts, electrolytes and fluids for a few days before doing any exercise.

Finally, if you usually engage in very tough workouts, I would recommend NOT going straight back to your usual level of intensity on your first day back training after a bad cold or flu – even if you feel 100 per cent, pushing your body hard could expose some lingering weakness that sets your recovery back.


CF: One of the easiest ways to equip yourself against the flu next season is to avail of the flu vaccine. While the focus of the flu vaccine on healthcare workers obviously makes sense, the vaccine is available to anyone who wishes to get it, and is particularly recommended for vulnerable people in certain age/health groups. It’s always advised that the elderly and women who are pregnant, for example, should get the vaccine, but if you feel that your general health may be less than optimal and that you are susceptible to flu, or if you have had a bad bout of flu this year and/or in previous years, it is absolutely worth talking to your doctor about getting the vaccine.

KR: While there are contradictory and strong opinions on the safety of vaccines in general, it is my experience that most medical professionals believe them to be safe and a good option with minimal side effects for anyone worried about flu.

CF: Aside from that option, the best way to give yourself a fighting chance against colds and flus is to take care of the big three, Kaman Ryan advises:

1. Eat a balanced, nutritious diet rich in vegetables, fruits and some good fats. A properly nourished and hydrated body, with a robust digestive system (no recurrent stomach or bowel issues), is the first line of defence against an array of maladies – not just colds and flu but more serious and chronic problems too. Think of it as arming your own personal-health-military with everything it needs to defend against invaders.

2. Wrap up and take precautions. Dress properly, wash your hands regularly (especially before eating) and drink alcohol in moderation. Many people get sick around Christmas, when they are attending parties and maybe having a few more drinks than usual. Some research suggests that your body prioritises metabolizing alcohol above other tasks, which might give a cold or flu time to get a toehold when – but for those few extra glasses of wine – your immune system might otherwise have been able to nip it in the bud. Equally, if you’ve shaken hands with 20 people before dinner, it is worth taking the time to go and wash those hands before tucking into the hors d’oeuvres! Lastly, obey your mom (not the fashion police) and wear a scarf and hat when venturing out, especially at night.

3. Sleep. An overtired and stressed immune system is a welcome mat for colds and flu. Take special care to ensure you are getting enough proper (non alcohol-induced) sleep during cold and flu season.

CF: Of course, you can do everything right and still get the flu, but taking a little bit of extra care around flu season could give you that extra bit of luck just when you need it.

6 tips to safely ease into a new fitness routine

By: Julie Nakis

Before jumping headfirst into a new fitness routine to start the New Year, it’s important to ease into an exercise regime to avoid losing motivation or risking injury.

“When people begin a new exercise program, they often push their bodies too far and put themselves at risk for injury,” says Dr. Paul DeFrino, orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “The common notion that exercise must be difficult or painful to be beneficial is simply wrong. Moderation is the key to safety.”

Dr. DeFrino advises that safe exercise programs start slowly and gradually, building in intensity, frequency and duration. He says this holds true for someone starting off as a couch potato or hopping into an old routine after an extended break.

“People who push too far too fast are prone to injuries like ankle sprains,” says Dr. DeFrino. “The body needs to recover fully in between workout sessions. Without a period of rest, minor aches and pains will build up, muscles and ligaments will be strained and injuries will occur.”

Dr. DeFrino recommends the following six tips to transition into a new workout routine to avoid muscle strain or injuries:

  1. Develop a balanced fitness program. Make sure your routine includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility.
  2. Start with low-impact cardio. Workout beginners should build up their endurance and stamina with exercises that are easier on the joints like walking, cycling or swimming. Slowly add intensity in the workouts.
  3. Warm up. Jog lightly in place a few minutes before your workout to increase your heart rate and loosen up other muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints.
  4. Use proper equipment. Wear shoes that provide good support to prevent ankle rolls. Replace your shoes when they wear out.
  5. Set a schedule. Create a weekly workout schedule that includes rest days.
  6. Take your time. Only do what feels comfortable to you during a new workout. Take your time with new moves and drink plenty of water.

What to know about exercise and how to start

People divide exercise into three broad categories:

  • aerobic
  • anaerobic
  • agility training

We describe each of these categories below.

Aerobic exercise

Share on PinterestThere are several types of exercise, and they provide a range of benefits for health and well-being.

Aerobic exercise aims to improve how the body uses oxygen. Most aerobic exercise takes place at average levels of intensity over longer periods.

An aerobic exercise session involves warming up, exercising for at least 20 minutes, and then cooling down. Aerobic exercise mostly uses large muscle groups.

Aerobic exercise provides the following benefits:

  • improves muscle strength in the lungs, heart, and whole body
  • lowers blood pressure
  • improves circulation and blood flow in the muscles
  • increases the red blood cell count to enhance oxygen transportation
  • reduces the risk of diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • improves life expectancy and symptoms for people with coronary artery diseases
  • stimulates bone growth and reduces the risk of osteoporosis when at high intensity
  • improves sleep hygiene
  • enhances stamina by increasing the body’s ability to store energy molecules, such as fats and carbohydrates, within muscle

Anaerobic exercise

Anaerobic exercise does not use oxygen for energy. People use this type of exercise to build power, strength, and muscle mass.

These exercises are high-intensity activities that should last no longer than around 2 minutes. Anaerobic exercises include:

  • weightlifting
  • sprinting
  • intensive and fast skipping with a rope
  • interval training
  • isometrics
  • any rapid burst of intense activity

While all exercise benefits the heart and lungs, anaerobic exercise provides fewer benefits for cardiovascular health than aerobic exercise and uses fewer calories. However, it is more effective than aerobic exercise for building muscle and improving strength.

Increasing muscle mass causes the body to burn more fat, even when resting. Muscle is the most efficient tissue for burning fat in the body.

Agility training

Agility training aims to improve a person’s ability to maintain control while speeding up, slowing down, and changing direction.

In tennis, for example, agility training helps a player maintain control over their court positioning through good recovery after each shot.

People who take part in sports that heavily rely on positioning, coordination, speed, and balance need to engage in agility training regularly.

The following sports are examples of ones that require agility:

  • tennis
  • American football
  • hockey
  • badminton
  • volleyball
  • basketball
  • soccer
  • martial arts
  • boxing
  • wrestling

Stretching and flexibility

Share on PinterestYoga can help improve a person’s flexibility and relieve stress.

Some exercises combine stretching, muscle conditioning, and balance training. A popular and effective example is yoga.

Yoga movements improve balance, flexibility, posture, and circulation.

The practice originated in India thousands of years ago and aims to unify the mind, body, and spirit. Modern yoga uses a combination of meditation, posture, and breathing exercises to achieve the same goals.

A yoga practitioner can tailor a course for individual needs.

A person looking to manage arthritis might need gentle stretches to improve mobility and function. Someone with depression, on the other hand, may need more emphasis on the relaxation and deep breathing elements of yoga.

Pilates is another stretching option that promotes flexibility and core strength. Tai chi is also an effective option for exercise that promotes calm stretching rather than intensity.

Here, learn more about yoga.

The Best Way to Start Exercising Again After Being Sick

A winter cold, flu, or virus can throw a serious wrench in your normally fit routine, leaving you bedridden and (eventually) craving a good sweat. (Next time, try these tips to fight cold and flu germs the right way.)

But how do you get back on the bandwagon after an illness passes? How big of a setback did you really take? And how much exercise is too much when you’re first getting back at it? We touched base with Michele Olson, PhD, a professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery to find out.

Things might not be as bad as you think: If you’re flat on your back for a week-assuming you stick to a regular gym routine when you’re healthy-you’ll lose about 30 percent of your fitness, especially your cardio output, says Olson. While this is a bummer, with two to three weeks of training-using the right bounce-back strategy-you should be close to your normal physical fitness again, she says.

So how can you tell if you’re OK to hit the pavement? First and foremost, make sure you haven’t had a fever for at least 48 hours, says Olson, who adds that you should also have a few good night’s sleep under your belt, and no longer have any aches and pains.

“If you’re running a fever, you should not work out,” Olson notes. “The energy needed by your immune system to fight off bacterial infections will be compromised if you exercise.” And this means you’ll invite lingering symptoms to worsen-which could predispose you to more intense issues like mononucleosis or pneumonia, she says. (Not fun.)

So if you truly think you’re in the clear, it’s important to ease back into your regular routine. “When you’ve had an infection, the increased work of your immune system is taxing on the body,” says Olson. Overwhelm an already over-worked bod and you’ll wind up right back in the sack.

As for where to start, Olson suggests light cardio then resistance training. “It’s important to make sure your oxygen delivery system is intact so that when you do resistance training, your muscles will get the oxygen,” she says. But if you’re a yogi (and your body is familiar with the practice), you should be OK returning to the studio with a light class, since the exercise is less demanding and often moves at a moderate cardio pace, she adds. (Try these 5 Yoga Moves to Beat the Flu!)

The bottom line: Don’t naively assume you can go back to 100 percent right away. “Do about 70 percent of what you were doing,” suggests Olson. Reducing your weights and cardio output by 30 percent for a few days will make up for the loss in fitness while you were sick. So build back slowly, even if you’re tempted to push harder. Don’t worry, eventually, two miles won’t feel like 10 anymore.

When you’re sick, people tend to give you a lot of advice: anything ranging from home remedies, medications, or even working out.

There are a lot of contradicting pieces of advice out there about exercising while and after you’re sick. Some people say to rest. Some people say sweat it out.

But, what’s the real answer? How long should you wait to exercise after or when you’re sick?

The answer isn’t so simple.

You need to be careful. Working out is a healthy activity. Although, if you work out while you’re sick or work out too soon after you have recovered, symptoms may worsen.

Depending on your symptoms or the sickness that you had, wait times for working out may be longer or shorter.


You should NOT work out when you have a fever. Do not sweat it out—you are already sweating.

Due to your fever, your body temperature is already too high. Working out will only increase your heart rate and your body temperature.

If you workout while having a fever, you run the risk of increasing your already-high temperature and even passing out.


If your cold symptoms are all in your head (not imaginary, but if you have symptoms like a runny nose, congestion, or are sneezing), then exercise won’t make the cold any worse. As long as you’re also not experiencing a fever, see above.

Do be wary of working out, if you are taking medication to help alleviate your cold symptoms. Some cold medicines can increase your heart rate. When this is combined with working out, you may experience light-headedness or shortness of breath.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms in the neck or lungs while you have a cold, this changes the answer. Avoid the gym or strenuous activities until those symptoms clear up.

Respiratory Illness

If you have a sore throat, bronchitis, strep, or any sickness involving the respiratory system, working out will make it worse.

If you don’t rest, your sickness may get worse. For example, if you work out when you’re experiencing a sore throat, the symptoms could worsen and develop into something more serious such as bronchitis.

After you get over a respiratory illness, you should also wait two weeks before working out again. Allow your body to rest and heal.


Although working out for 30 minutes a day could help prevent you from getting the flu, once you have the flu, it’s wise to stop working out.

It’s important to allow your body to rest, especially if you have a fever. Like mentioned before, if you work out while your body temperature is already high, you will only increase the fever. An even worse case of influenza will then keep you from exercising for even longer.

Once your fever breaks (usually after 2-5 days), wait 24-hours before working out. This will help ensure that your fever has subsided, but it could also protect those who are working out near you. Gyms are already home to an endless supply of germs, so there’s no reason to add flu-carrying bacteria into the air.

Have you ever made an illness worse by exercising too soon after getting sick? Let us know in the comments, or via Facebook and Twitter.

Written for Passport Health by Kaitlyn Luckow. Kaitlyn is a freelance writer, photographer and English teacher in Milwaukee. She has a passion for capturing and writing other people’s stories. You can find her at sayhellostory.com.

If your fitness regime has been thrown off course by a bout of flu, a cold or the dreaded norovirus, you are certainly not alone. But how, in that sluggish post-viral period, do you gauge whether it is safe to start exercising again?

Your resting heart rate can be a good indicator of whether exercise is appropriate – providing you know what it is when you are 100% well. “Elite athletes check their resting heart rate daily,” says Dr Mark Wotherspoon, a sports physician with the English Institute of Sport. “If the resting level is 10 beats per minute above normal, this would be an indicator not to train.”

For the rest of us, the nature – and location – of your symptoms is an important determinant of whether you should don your slippers or your running shoes. “We differentiate between ‘above the neck’ symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes or a mild sore throat,” says Wotherspoon, “and ‘below the neck’ ones, such as a cough, a congested or tight chest, an upset stomach, muscle aches or fever.” If your symptoms are above the neck and you feel OK, it is fine to do a light work-out. Research from Ball State University in Indiana found that infecting subjects with a mild cold virus did not affect their ability to exercise moderately. Lung capacity of the infected subjects was the same as that of the healthy ones, and running on a treadmill for 15 minutes felt no harder.

Is there any truth in the old “sweating out a cold” adage? “Bringing up your body temperature is a way of fighting a virus,” says Dr Alex Nieper, sports physician for Chelsea Football Club. “But keep the activity light to moderate – and brief.” Research from the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University shows that symptoms normally last around a week – though in about 25% cases, they can linger for up to 14 days.

“Hard exercise compromises the immune system, allowing a virus to strengthen its hold,” says Nieper. “The body is already under stress in fighting the infection, so piling on additional stress through vigorous exercise is counterproductive.” Studies have found that a long, hard work-out can lower immunity for up to nine hours.

And if your symptoms are below the neck, give your work-out a miss regardless of how you feel, or how much you think you need to do it. Exercising with major cold symptoms, particularly a fever, will prolong your illness and can be dangerous. “A fever is an indication that your body is fighting a virus,” explains Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre. “If you are feverish or feeling really rough, then don’t force yourself to exercise as you may faint or, in very rare cases, cause some damage to your heart.” Eccles is referring to a condition called myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, which can result from over-exerting yourself when you have a virus. It can cause shortness of breath, heart arrhythmias and, in extreme cases, sudden cardiac death.

Stopping exercising for up to a fortnight can be tough for fitness fanatics or those training for a specific event with a looming deadline, but Wotherspoon says it is important not to panic. “There’s a tendency to think that if you miss a couple of days of training, it’s a disaster,” he says. “But the quality of your training is at least as important as the quantity. Training when you’re not 100% well isn’t going to give you that quality.”

It is important to return to exercise with caution. Monitor how you feel, make sure you stay well hydrated (particularly if you have had a stomach bug), avoid getting wet and cold and look out for telltale signs that you are overdoing it, such as a work-out feeling harder than it should, shortness of breath, weakness or dizziness. “There is no hard and fast rule for when to return to exercise after a cold or flu,” says Eccles. Nieper agrees. “From a sports medicine point of view, there are no specific signals that you’re ready to return,” he says. “Once your symptoms have gone, try a gentle 10-minute work-out and see how it feels. If that’s OK, gradually increase the challenge the next day, and again the day after. If you’re still feeling fine, you can gradually work your way back to where you were.” But, he warns, “don’t try to make up for lost time. Push too hard, too soon, and you might end up back where you started.”

How to stay well when exercising

Stay well hydrated Dehydration dries up the mucous membranes, allowing infections to take hold.

Eat and drink after training Within half an hour of training, eat a carb-based meal or snack with a little protein to help maximise the replenishment of fuel stores.

Take probiotics A new Australian study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that taking probiotics during winter training more than halved the number of days endurance athletes suffered cold symptoms.

Don’t overtrain Balance your training with adequate rest and recovery. One study found that runners who average more than 96km a week were twice as likely to suffer from colds as those running less than 32km.

Wash your hands after the gym “The best advice is to not touch your nose or eyes when exercising and to wash your hands when you finish your workout,” says Professor Eccles.

Don’t linger in damp clothing after exercise As you cool down after a work-out, the cold, damp clothes will lower your body temperature further, making you more susceptible to catching a cold.

Why is it important to ease into an exercise program?

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