Working out when you’re sick: When it is OK, when it is not.

There is a never a convenient time to get sick. From work to kids and busy schedules, who has time to be sick? When it comes to interfering with your regular workout routine, do you let illness stop you from hitting the gym? For many, it is hard enough getting in the time for exercise even when we’re feeling great. You’ve carved out the time, but now you’re not feeling up to par. When is it OK and when is it not OK to exercise when you’re sick? Here are some general guidelines to help you make that decision; however, it is always important to listen to your own body.

Fever – Experts agree that if you have a fever of 101 degrees or greater, exercise is not going to help you feel any better. When we exercise, we raise our internal temperature, causing us to sweat. However, if you are already at a higher internal temperature, exercise can add further stress to your system and can even make you sicker. When it comes to a fever, it is best to skip the workout that day.

Generally in shape – If you exercise on a regular basis without fail, say three times or more a week, feeling a little under the weather may not prohibit you from working out. In fact, you may likely bounce back from your illness faster than if you took the day off. Research shows those who work out tend to get sick less than those who don’t and recover from their illness at a faster rate. However, you should not try to go for gold during this workout. Take it back a few notches to help your body recover and heal after your workout.

 Check your symptoms – Do you have a runny nose, congestion or a minor sore throat? Generally, it is OK to exercise if you have an illness with symptoms above the neck. Again, listen to your body and judge whether a mild workout will help you feel better or worse. However, if your symptoms are an upset stomach, congestion in your chest or a bad cough, it is best to skip the workout.

Adjust Intensity and Length – If you normally run 5 miles, and you’re feeling up to working out, but not feeling great, shorten your run or walk instead. Also, this may be a good time to take a yoga or Pilates class, requiring less of a cardiovascular workout. Both these workouts are great immune system boosters as they help reduce the level of stress hormones in our systems while promoting relaxation and deep breathing.

Of course, when heading to the gym with a cold, be mindful of others. Put down a towel over the surface of the exercise equipment if possible. Wipe down the equipment with a towel or sanitary wipe after your workout. Make sure to always wash your hands to help germs from spreading at the gym. If you have any questions regarding whether it is OK for you to exercise when you’re sick, talk with your doctor first.

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