Should you exercise while you’re sick?

With the colder weather come germs, flu viruses and what seems like a plethora of colds.  We know what to do and how to take care of ourselves when illness strikes.  However, what does that mean for your exercise routine?

Exercising while you’re sick should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as it depends on what exactly you’re sick with.  The biggest thing to remember is to listen to your body; if it hurts, you’re too tired, or it makes you feel worse, then don’t exercise.

For example, exercising with a cold can generally be okay, but when you have a fever, exercise is a no-go.  Fevers are the limiting factor regarding exercise and illness.  Exercising with a fever can make you sicker because you end up raising your body temperature internally.

Endorsed by the Mayo Clinic, the American College of Sports Medicine, and others, the “neck check” seems to be the best guide to follow in deciding if exercise is a good idea when you’re not feeling well.  The “neck check” is a simple look at what and where your symptoms occur.  If experiencing above the neck symptoms like sniffling, sneezing, and a sore throat, you are generally safe to exercise.  If experiencing below the neck symptoms such as body aches, fatigue, and coughing, exercise should be avoided.  Remember that the above the neck rule changes if you have a fever, when exercise should be avoided.

In cases where you pass the “neck check,” you should still reduce your workout to approximately 50% intensity.  For example, you could walk instead of run, or take a yoga or Pilates class as a regenerative workout option.  It’s also very important to stay hydrated when you’re sick, but especially if you decide to exercise while you’re feeling under the weather.  Additionally, remember to practice common courtesy for your fellow gym patrons.  Wipe down your machines and avoid attending fitness classes when you’re sneezing and coughing, for example.

As a precursor to coming down with an illness in the first place, it can be said that exercising on a regular basis can help keep you healthy longer.  The suggested amount of exercise to ward off common colds and viruses and boost immunity is 30 minutes of physical activity, 3-4 times per week.

How do you maintain your routine when sick?

Photo credit: RLHyde

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