Working Out While Sick - What the Doctor Says
So it happens. You wake up with a sore throat, you cough, and your nose is running. While you are jumping into the “get healthy” mode, you may think this is a free pass to not exercise.
You drink tea or orange juice, you have a new box of tissues, and you want to take some medicine and sleep.
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Are you supposed to work out when you are sick?
Below, we will get a medical professional’s opinion.
Working Out Can Help If
Dr. Cedrina L. Calder mentions that “exercise can help open up your airways and help with congestion. You may need to decrease the intensity of your workouts until you feel better, though.
Strenuous exercise would exacerbate your symptoms.
So movement can actually benefit your body when you are sick, especially if your symptoms are above your neck — runny nose, headache, sneezing, etc.
“It’s generally fine for a person to work out if it’s a viral upper respiratory infection,” says Dr. John Cheng of South Coast Medical Group.
It’s important to listen to your body. Stop if you notice your symptoms getting worse.
Working Out Will Hurt If
If you have any of these symptoms below, it is not advised to exercise while sick.
You’re Running a Fever
According to Dr. Cheng, when a person has a fever that cannot reduce to normal temperatures, you are at risk for overheating and dehydration.
You Have Severe Symptoms
While there are athletes that love to train through the pain, you should stop exercising if you feel any of the following:
- You have trouble breathing
- Your muscles ache
- You notice weakness
- You are nauseous
- You are vomiting
- You have stomach pain
You Can’t Keep Liquids Down
You know that drinking water is important to staying hydrated and staying at peak performance, but what if you can’t even keep liquids down?
If you haven’t been able to keep anything down for the past 24 hours, “that’s a pretty good sign athletic performance should wait,” says Dr. Kevin Tolliver of Indiana University School of Medicine.
6 Tips for Exercising When You Are Sick
When it comes to exercising when you are sick, you need to be aware that you can’t train like you previously have been. You’ll need to decrease your intensity and simply focus on “staying moving.”
#1 – Try Something Different
If you have a cold, take that day to focus on parts of your workout you normally neglect. Try some corrective stretching and foam rolling — they will help build a foundation for gains once you are back feeling healthy.
#2 – Try Exercising in the Morning
I know it is hard to get up before work to exercise, but starting your day off with exercise can help make your body strong and agile as you are battling your sickness.
Exercising in the morning is a great way to meditate — it can start your day off better in both mental and physical performance.
#3 – Stay Away From People
If you are sick and the weather permits, try exercising outdoors instead of the gym.
The fresh air will help with your congested airways and you can stay away from people. Nothing is worse than having to exercise around someone sick… Especially if someone else could get sick from it.
Use exercise courtesy and avoid working out around people. If you do go to the gym sick, wipe down your machines and mats after use.
#4 – Lower the Intensity
You feel sick, so there’s no need to try to break any personal records. Take this time to decrease the intensity of your workouts until you feel better.
A lot of strenuous activity could make your symptoms worse — think of this as simply staying active.
#5 – Layer Your Clothes
Dr. Michele C. Reed suggests dressing in layers that you can peel off at the gym as you warm up. “If you’re exercising outdoors, be sure to cover your head since we lose a lot of heat from that part of the body,” she says.
#6 – Stay Hydrated
When it’s colder out, people don’t tend to drink as much water. This can lead to dizziness, fatigue, or dehydration. Staying hydrated allows our body to perform and helps aid our weakened immune system.
Keep water handy throughout the day and sip on it when you can.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes down to exercising while sick, the doctors say it is okay to exercise if you have “above the shoulder” symptoms. Having the sniffles is no reason to skip the gym.
It is, however, important that you listen to your body and focus on staying active while you get better. This will open up clogged airways and help your body recover.
Be polite and steer clear of others when you are sick — especially if you are in the gym exercising.