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Workout When Sick: A Good Move?

workout when sick

Should I Workout When Sick?

Should you or shouldn’t you workout when sick? Conventional wisdom tells us that when we’ve got the sniffles, tucking in with a good movie and maybe a mug of Golden Milk and giving the body some time to rest and recoup is just what the doctor ordered. But is this always the case? What about those times when you’re under the weather but your body is calling you to do something – anything – but lie around?

With the Rocky Mountains in our backyard, we’re fans of breaking a sweat as much as anyone, but we wonder, this time of year, when something is always going around, is hitting the slopes while hitting DayQuil a good idea? Does getting the heart pumping help or hinder the body’s recovery?

Follow the Neck Rule

That answer depends on what ails you.  Just sneezing and sniffles? A workout might be fine. Thermometer registering above 100 F? That’s a good indicator to press pause. “Fever is the limiting factor, Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a New York City-based sports medicine expert tells WebMD. ‘The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever because that can make you even sicker.”

Consider giving yourself a “neck check,” suggests 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,” he says. “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.”

Workout With Caution

Okay, so if you’re not working out with a fever are you clear to resume your regularly scheduled program? Not so fast. A good rule of thumb is to not push your body beyond its limits when your immune system is low. This may mean scaling down or doing a different workout than you intend if your symptoms intensify.

You may find, however, by getting the lungs pumping symptoms actually improve. “If your sinuses are plugged up, walking will stimulate you to take deep breaths and can help open up those passages,” Richard Besser, MD, chief health and medical editor at ABC News tell Health magazine.

Here are some suggestions for the best and worst workouts if you have a cold. The good news? There’s a bevy of options for moving your body while it’s on the mend. The not so good? Being out in the cold (i.e. hitting the slopes) is never a good idea with the sniffles.


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