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A Guide to Exercising with a Hangover

Ah, the hangover - the dreaded prize after one too many drinks. Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for hangovers[1], although staying hydrated, getting enough sleep and perhaps a vitamin boost can at least alleviate some of the unwanted symptoms. Painkillers and a coffee will help you feel more alert and potentially help with other symptoms, albeit only in the short term.

But what about exercise? While some choose to while away the hours of a hangover on the sofa, eating takeaways and binge-watching Netflix, others take a different approach, choosing to blow away the cobwebs with an exercise session to 'sweat out' the previous nights' excesses. 

The big question is, which is better? We're here to answer this question and more... 

Is it okay to exercise on a hangover?

Whether or not it's okay to exercise on a hangover depends on a few factors, but really it all boils down to just how bad the hangover is. If you're feeling overcome with nausea and likely to have to run to the bathroom during your workout, then it's best to take the day to rest and recover. Your body will be feeling run down, so you'll need your energy to get better. If, however, you're just suffering with a mild headache and a bit of tiredness, but you're still comfortable being up and moving around, then it's okay to consider some light exercise - we just recommend you avoid anything too strenuous. 

Factors to bear in mind if you're considering exercising on a hangover include:

  • Hydration levels: Alcohol dehydrates you and your body needs water to survive and thrive. Remaining in a dehydrated state not only makes you feel terrible, but it also ruins your performance in the gym, and interrupts your body's normal functioning. A heavy workout could leave you sweating and even more dehydrated, so don't undertake any exercise until you're sure your body is fully hydrated - your urine should be clear, that's a good way to tell.

    If you do head to the gym, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. If you're a Plus member, why not top up with Yanga water for additonal vitamins and electrolytes.

  • How tired you are: Although there's evidence that alcohol can help you fall asleep -- and maybe even sleep more deeply at the beginning of the night -- it also has the ability to disrupt the later and deeper parts of sleep which are critical to the body's well-being. If your body is tired you could be more prone to injury at the gym, and exercise could put your already exhausted body under more stress. If you're feeling wiped out, then a nap could be the most beneficial option.

  • Are you still drunk?: Alcohol can stay in your system hours after you have your last drink and in some cases you may wake up still feeling a little tipsy from the night before. It takes roughly one hour for one unit of alcohol to leave your body and a pint of beer is around two or three units. This means four pints will take in excess of 8 hours to leave your system, although this can differ based on gender, what you've eaten, how quickly you drank, your weight and so much more. If you've had a heavy night of spirits, pints and shots, you may still have alcohol in your system until well into the following afternoon. If you're still feeling in any way under the effects of alcohol, then any kind of gym workout would definitely not be advised.

Does exercise help a hangover? 

There are some who claim they can 'sweat out' a hangover by heading to the gym, or that exercise can actually help to heal the hangover. While there's no evidence that exercise will speed up the process of getting through a hangover, getting your body moving will produce endorphins (the happy hormone) so you may well find yourself feeling a bit cheerier than before. Likewise, heading out for a walk means you're getting fresh air away from the sofa or bed, which may well help your head feel a little clearer and more refreshed.

Is it better to exercise or sleep off a hangover? 

What you decide to do on your hangover will depend on how you're feeling and just how bad the hangover is. One of the best approaches to a recovery is to make sure you consume nutritious, protein-rich foods[2], drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest. If you feel up for moving, and all the alcohol is out of your system, light exercise can definitely help you feel better.

What are the best exercises to do on a hangover? 

If you're still feeling tipsy, tired, nauseous or dehydrated, avoid taking part in high energy workouts like heavy weight lifting, HIIT, or bootcamp. You're more likely to be prone to injury and your chance of dehydration will increase, making you feel weaker and more unwell. 

Once you're feeling well enough for some movement, and if you're craving fresh air or an endorphin rush, then gentle exercise like yoga, walking, swimming or even a light jog are a good way to keep your body moving without making the hangover worse.

Here are some workouts you might want to try on your hangover:

Once you've fully recovered, you'll be free to hit up the gym again. If you're not already a member, you can find a PureGym near you and make the most of our excellent range of gym equipment, fitness classes and expert personal trainers.

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