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Exercise Guidelines When You’re Sick

Everyone gets sick sooner or later. Right now, it’s cold and flu season and germs seem to be everywhere. We covered how not to get sick at the gym in another article. Now let’s talk about what to do when germs get you somewhere else.

Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?

Obviously, we’re not talking about when you’re sick as a dog and you can barely move. When that happens, do yourself and everyone else a favor by staying in bed. Sometimes, though, people ask what type of physical activity is okay when they just have a few symptoms.

Most experts recommend using the “above the neck” rule to decide if you should work out when you’re sick. In other words, pinpoint all of your symptoms. These would be considered above the neck:

  • Coughing
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Sinus pressure
  • A sore throat (with no accompanying fever)
  • Earache
  • Itchy, watery eyes

Sometimes an earache can make you unsteady. If your balance is affected, it’s not a good idea to engage in any type of physical activity that increases your risk of a fall. But if you just feel discomfort and pressure and you feel like being active, that’s probably okay.

If your doctor says take it easy, even if your symptoms are all above the neck, follow his or her advice.

Signs You Shouldn’t Exercise

Stay home and rest if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Coughing that produces phlegm
  • Aching muscles or joints
  • Above the neck symptoms that are worse the next day

Some symptoms can indicate a serious condition. It’s always best to talk to a medical professional before any change in your exercise routine.

Good and Bad Exercises When You’re Sick

Even if you just have a light cold, your energy will be impacted. Plan a lighter workout and take extra time to hear what your body is telling you.

Walking is one of the best exercises when you’re sick. It’s easy to adjust your pace if you want more or less. Walking improves circulation and stimulates sinus passages so you can breathe better.

If you jog, running is also a natural decongestant. Dial back your distance and speed and just focus on the freedom of the open road or trail. Exercise that includes low-intensity bodyweight exercise and stretching (like yoga) is also good when you’re sick.

Avoid endurance running. You’ll stress your body when it needs all its resources to recover. You also shouldn’t lift heavy weights. That muscle strain will increase pressure on your sinuses and intensify existing headaches.

This isn’t something we normally say, but avoid gym equipment when you have a head cold. Be considerate of others so they don’t end up catching what’s got you down. Team sports are a bad idea for the same reason.







Article exclusively for Fitness in Training by Content by Missy