Should You Exercise When You're Sick?

Truly useful get-fit tips from our senior fitness editor
January 20, 2011

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So you’re feeling a little under the weather (who isn’t this time of year?). Should you skip your workout? I’ve often wondered that myself. On one hand, it’s tempting to stay sacked out on the couch or in bed instead of working up a sweat. But on the other hand, you’ll lose out on all the immunity-boosting benefits of exercise if you skip it. What’s a gal to do?

I asked Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, for her advice. Read on to find out when it’s best to lay low—and when you’re good to go.

What you have: Runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, sore throat, and/or headache
What you don’t have: Fever, aches, chest congestion
Lay low or good to go? Good to go!
The fine print: Take it a little easier than you usually would

What you have: Fever, aches, chest congestion, stomach cramps, and/or vomiting
Lay low or good to go? Lay low
The fine print: Wait 48 hours from the time your symptoms disappear to start exercising again

In general, if your symptoms are “above the neck” but don’t include a fever it’s fine to hit the gym. But hey, if you feel your body needs a little TLC in the way of sofa time, that’s fine too. You can always do biceps curls with that cup of chicken noodle soup.

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