We're in the middle of winter as well as cold season, and at some point, many of us will ask ourselves, “Should I exercise when I am sick?”
Well, it depends on a number of things.
There is the right way to exercise when you're sick, and there is the wrong way.
I’ve broken down the questions you should ask yourself to determine if you should take a rest day or hit the gym:
1. Do you have a fever?
If the answer is yes, then no, you should not exercise.
Exercise raises your heart rate and internal body temperature, so when you have a fever, it is best to stay at rest.
At that point, your body is having a hard enough time fighting off whatever is ailing you, so let it fight it.
Take two naps and call me in the morning.
2. Where are you sick?
The general rule is, if it’s above the neck, then you are okay (as long as you don’t have a fever).
So for head colds, a little exercise can be good for you.
Moving around and getting your blood flowing can actually clear up head congestion, as long as you don’t overdo it.
Sweating can also rid the body of toxins and speed up your recovery time.
Don’t do anything that is going to cause you to be short of breath or cause pain.
Getting that burn from a workout is great when you are healthy, but when you are sick, it's best to just keep it simple.
If you are sick anywhere below the neck, don’t exercise.
Chest congestion, body aches, chills, etc. are signs that something serious is wrong, and you should see a doctor.
Exercise is definitely not advised in these circumstances.
3. How sick are you?
This question is only for you to decide.
It is good to sweat a little bit when you have a head cold, but it is truly up to you as to how much effort to put into it.
If you are still moving around just fine, try some light, low-impact cardio, such as the elliptical or stationary bicycle.
If you are a little sluggish, but still able to go to work and function, try some pilates or intense yoga.
If you are struggling, but need to get to work, try some dynamic or isometric moves to help give your energy a boost and get the blood flowing.
Sometimes putting in a little bit of exertion actually helps you wake up and feel more capable of taking on the day ahead of you, even when you are fighting a cold.
You may want to skip the weight training until you are feeling better, though.
And remember to always be cautious of sanitary concerns if you are exercising at a public gym.
Thoroughly wipe down the machines before and after you use them.
Avoid group classes, so as not to spread germs, especially if you have a cough.
Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a small pack of tissues with you, and be sure to use the tissues anytime you cough or sneeze.
Immediately use the hand sanitizer afterward.
Working out when you are sick can be helpful for you, but the bottom line is, you are putting others at risk of getting sick if you hit the gym.
All in all, use your best judgment.
Listen to your body.
It can definitely help you get better quicker if you do some light exercise, but if you push your body too far when it is already struggling, you may end up prolonging your illness.