Fall and winter months tend to bring a variety of colds and viruses. It is almost inevitable that we will catch some kind of illness, either from our kids bringing the sniffles home from school, or from the shared spaces in our offices. Is it still okay to exercise even when we are feeling ill?
Listen to Your Body
The most important thing we can do is listen to our own bodies. Try to head off a cold or the flu before it starts, by washing your hands frequently, particularly before eating or touching your face. If you begin to feel rundown, consider taking a day off from the gym, and try to stock up on extra sleep by getting to bed earlier. If you do become sick, take inventory of what is ailing you, and pay close attention to your symptoms.
Guidelines to Help You Decide on Your Workout:
- Do you have a headache?
- Are you congested?
- Do you have a runny nose?
- Are you experiencing a sore throat?
- Are you suffering from chest congestion or tightness?
- Do you have a cough (either dry or productive)?
- Do you have an upset stomach or gastrointestinal distress?
- Are you experiencing a fever or an achy body?
Sick Above the Neck
As a general rule, if you are feeling mildly ill from above the neck with sniffles or a sore throat, it is usually okay to exercise moderately. Be prepared, however, to scale back on the amount of activity to which you are accustomed. We tend to overestimate how much we can handle when we are sick with “just a cold”, but if you can adjust the intensity of your workout, you may actually relieve some of your congestion and feel better with a modified routine.
Sick Below the Neck
If you are sick below the neck (tight chest, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, body aches, upset stomach, or GI distress), it is generally recommended that you take a break from your usual workout routine and rest until you are feeling better.
Exercising with a Fever—Never!
If you have a fever, you should completely refrain from working out. Your body is already stressed as a result of an increase in temperature from the fever, and elevating it more when working out is not advisable.
Exercise Perspective When You are Sick
It can be tempting to maintain your usual active routine while sick, but in some cases, you may actually do more harm than good. While exercising regularly can improve your overall health and boost your immunity to the common cold, overexerting yourself while your immune system is compromised can actually further stress it and prolong the time you are ill.
Use your best judgment when you are sick by listening to your body. Exercise within your limits and remember to increase your fluid intake. Try to be considerate of others, as well. If you feel you are contagious in any way, steer clear of the gym or other spaces that rely on recycled air and shared equipment. Consider taking your workout outdoors and going for a walk or run, or doing some circuit training in your home until you have completely recovered.