You’ve been working out regularly, and after weeks or maybe even months of rarely skipping your scheduled exercise, you feel like you’re finally getting fit. You’re thinking you’re healthier because you exercise so routinely — especially since research shows you’re less likely to get sick if you’re physically fit (and you feel better as a result).
Alas, despite your long hours at the gym, you got sick. Even though you’re under the weather, you don’t want to lose the traction you’ve made on your fitness goals. So, should you work out while you’re sick? There’s no perfect answer, but following a few guidelines can help you know whether you should hit the gym with your box of Kleenex or stay in bed to rest.
The easiest way to determine whether or not you should exercise is to use the above-the-neck rule. If your sickness is located above the neck, you should be safe to exercise. Exercise can get your circulation moving, stave off that dumpy sick feeling, and even unclog sinuses. Above-the-neck symptoms might include:
- Earache Headache
- Sore throat
- Sinus pressure
- Sneezing Stuffy or
- runny nose
Fever and below-the-neck symptoms
While it’s fine to work out when you have a cold or runny nose, if you have a fever, it’s always best to hold off from your regular workout. Working out with a fever will raise your internal body temperature even more. Instead, monitor your fever. If it’s greater than 101°F, avoid exercise until your fever breaks. If your symptoms are located below the neck, you may need to rethink jumping on the treadmill.
Avoid exercise if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea Vomiting
- Fever Chills
- Fatigue Muscle or body aches
- Coughing or chest tightness
How long should you rest?
You have a fever and body aches. How long should you rest before returning to your regular exercise routine? Again, it depends. If you have a cold, you should be feeling better within a week. Other sicknesses like bronchitis or a sinus infection can last two weeks, maybe longer if left untreated. The best course of action usually means holding off while you have below-the-neck symptoms, then easing back into your regular exercise routine as you start to feel relief.
Exercising while you’re sickJust because your symptoms are concentrated above the neck doesn’t mean you need to exercise. If you try to work out while you’re sick with a cold and find it’s killing you, slow down! Taking a few days off from your regular exercise won’t ruin all of the progress you’ve made. You can even exercise regularly but bring down your intensity. So instead of running five miles like you normally do, walk one or two. Similarly, think about doing a yoga class instead of your regular HIIT class.
Think about skipping the gym
When you’re sick and decide to continue exercising, you may want to skip the gym. Whenever you’re sick, there’s a period of time when you’re contagious. Instead, exercise at home or outdoors. A gym is an easy place to spread germs, so if you do decide to go, be considerate of others. Wash your hands before going, cough into your sleeve, throw used tissues in the trash, and wipe down machines after you use them.
Making the decision to exercise while you’re sick doesn’t have to be difficult. By evaluating your sickness and using the above-the-neck rule, you can take care of your body in the best way possible. Talk to your doctor if you want more information on exercising while you’re sick.