By Julie Messinger, B.S.
DHAC Exercise Physiologist
Feeling under the weather? Did you wake up feeling fatigued, have a runny nose, or aches and pains all over? Are you exhausted because you were up all night coughing? Sounds like you caught the common cold. No, it’s not fun at all, but everyone has to deal with fighting off a cold at some point every year. Many people will take a few days off from exercise if they are not feeling well, while others will fight through it and still get in their daily work out despite how bad they feel. So what’s the right thing to do?
Generally speaking, exercising on a regular basis will help decrease symptoms of the common cold. Exercise will also cut in half the number of days you suffer with your cold symptoms. Sometimes it is ok to still work out if you’re feeling sick, but other times it’s better for your own health and other’s health to just stay home and rest. How do you know if you are too sick to exercise?
First things first, always check with your physician to ensure that your symptoms are not something more severe than the common cold. If your Doc gives you the green light to exercise, and you are not contagious, there are two rules of thumb to follow.
1. If your symptoms are above the neck and mild, (runny nose, cough, headache,) it’s ok to continue to exercise. We recommend staying in the light to moderate range. Strength training, yoga and Pilates are your best choices. It is wise to stay away from cardiovascular exercise because it will cause your body to overexert itself. Remember, don’t over-do it. It will only lead to feeling lousy for a longer period of time and we don’t want that cold to wear out its welcome!
2. If your symptoms are below the neck (muscle soreness, stuffed chest, sweats, and chills) it is not safe to exercise. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should avoid exercising all together. Stay home and rest. Not only do you want to prevent yourself from becoming even more ill, but you run the risk of spreading the nasty cold to others. Everyone knows the saying “sweating the fever out” but the truth is, if you’re too sick to work out - stay home! It’s not good to “sweat it out” because you run the risk of landing yourself back in bed for another few days or even worse…the hospital.
Finally, when you are well enough to return, come back slow and easy. If you try to return too fast or intense, you could end up back at square one. Stay home, drink lots of fluids, and get plenty of sleep. If you follow these steps, you will be back to the gym in no time!