I’m Sick – Should I Exercise?

woman with cold

You have been on a roll and have been exercising every day and then you come down with a cold.  Should you be exercising?  There is no doubt when you aren’t feeling well you don’t feel like exercising, but if you exercise regularly you will feel worse if you don’t.

The general rule is to use the “Neck Check”.  According to Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, “If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and tearing eyes, then it’s OK to exercise. If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, then it’s time to hang up the running shoes until these symptoms subside.”  You may need to lower the intensity of your workout while you’re sick, walk on the treadmill instead of your normal run.  Lift lighter weights until you are back to normal.

When shouldn’t you exercise?  When you have a fever you should hold off on the exercise.  According to Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a New York City-based sports medicine expert, “The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever, because that can make you even sicker. If you have a fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, sit this one out.”

Of course it’s best not to get sick at all and exercise can help you stay healthy.  “Exercise in general can help boost your body’s natural defenses against illness and infection”, Dr. Schachter says.  A 30 minute moderate workout three to four times per week can increase your immunity.  However, intense 90-minute workouts like those done by athletes can lower your immunity. Rest and recovery is necessary after an intense workout not just to build your muscles but also to build your immunity.

If you are working out in a gym while you have a cold be courteous to the other gym members.  Clean off the machines you are using and use a hand sanitizer or wash your hands after blowing your nose.

With the changing of the season here in New England people are getting colds.  Use these guidelines to figure out whether you should exercise or not.

Holly Kouvo is a certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Specialist, speaker and writer who specializes in helping people lose hundreds of pounds. Learn more at www.FittingFitnessIn.com.


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