Why you May Want to Tone Down your Workouts During the COVID-19 Pandemic

6 May 2020by yulfitness

Why doing intense workouts may be doing more harm than good right now.

By Matt Whykes, BEXSc.
Kinesiologist, YUL Fitness


At any other point in time, doing intense workouts such as HIIT would be recommended by most coaches as a way to improve your fitness to the best of your ability. 

But now, it may be important to not exercise to your absolute max; but why?

During this pandemic, we need to step back and look at our main priority; preserving good health.

Now don’t get me wrong, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health, but there’s a catch when it comes to high intensity training.

In a study by Nıeman and Pedersen (1999), it was shown that high intensity training may actually hinder immune function, as the long, intense workouts they performed decreased interleukin levels for 48-72 hours post-exercise.  

This means that they are less capable of fighting off infection in the time after their race, which is not ideal when we consider preserving good health as our top priority. A similar phenomenon may occur during any type of high intensity exercise, hence the need to tone it down.

In contrast, moderate intensity training, according to Neiman and Pedersen (1999), greatly improves immune function. So keeping some kind of moderate intensity movement in your routine is important (now more than ever) to keep your health at its peak and prevent sickness.

So how exactly should I go about exercising now?

You don’t need to eliminate your HIIT workouts entirely; however you should limit it to about one third of your total training volume, and try not to perform them on consecutive days, as there may be risk of overtraining according to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee (2018).

Here are some guidelines for training during the corona virus pandemic:

  • Daily exercise, for at least 30 minutes.
  • Try to get outside to do your exercise, as fresh air is great for your mental and physical health.
  • Keep it moderate; you should still be able to talk during your exercise.
  • Make sure you spend some time recovering before you jump into your next workout. 
  • Pay attention to your body – If it’s telling you to back off, do it!

*This post is a summary of Jordan Metzl, M.D.’s article “Why You Might Want to Cool It On High-Intensity Workouts During the COVID Crisis” https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/moderate-intensity-exercise-during-coronavirus.


Nıeman, D. C., & Pedersen, B. K. (1999). Exercise and immune function: Recent development. Sports Med27, 73-80.

2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2018). 2018 physical activity guidelines advisory committee scientific report. In :. US Department of Health and Human Services.

Metzl, J. (2020). Why You Might Want to Chill Out On HIIT Workouts for the Time Being. Retrieved 6 May 2020, from https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/moderate-intensity-exercise-during-coronavirus


Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash