Should I Exercise While Sick?

It’s that time of year…coughing, sneezing, upset stomach. When is it ok to workout? Get the workout rules for when you’re feeling ill.

By Chris Freytag

If you’re exercising consistently—and I hope you are—you’ll run into this problem from time to time. According to the American Council on Exercise, the average adult has two to three respiratory infections every year. (Consider this another reason to get your flu shot.)
The rule I like to use is called the “neck check.” You can exercise while sick if your symptoms are all above the neck, like a runny nose or a sore throat. Of course, you should always listen to your body and take the intensity of your workout down a bit if your regular pace feels too strenuous.
If you’re suffering from congestion or low energy, exercise often helps you feel better. A brisk walk can unclog your sinuses better than an afternoon on the couch. And gentle exercise will rev up your circulation, to counteract that sluggish, rundown feeling. But this is definitely a personal decision. You’re the best judge of how you feel and what your body can handle when you’re sick.
672786_98271359However, if you have any symptoms below the neck, such as body aches, chills, stomach problems or diarrhea, then I advise you to take it easy until you’re feeling better. And if you’re running a fever, no matter where your symptoms are, put off exercising until your temperature returns to normal.
Maintaining healthy habits may keep you from getting sick in the first place. So wash your hands frequently, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and get adequate sleep. If you can find some room on your calendar, be sure to schedule a little “me time” to relax.
One more thing: If you exercise in a public setting, like a gym, please consider your fellow exercisers and think about how contagious you might be. If you can’t get through a single set on a weight machine without coughing or sneezing, you have my permission to stay home with a box of tissues and some hot tea!

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