While exercise can be helpful in strengthening the immune system to fight off illness, it is not always advisable once you become ill. Sometimes it’s better to keep your sneakers in the closet and just rest. However, there are times when light- to moderate-intensity activity may actually help you feel better. But how do you know when to get up and move and when to take the day off?
It is okay to exercise if you have these symptoms:
- Sinus pressure
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Ear ache
Exercise is not recommended if you have these symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Wheezing, coughing, chest tightness
Notice a pattern? If your symptoms are above the neck, it is typically okay to exercise. If your symptoms are below the neck, you should probably consider taking advantage of that rest day.
What Should I Do for Exercise When I’m Sick?
If you feel up to it, keep your regular routine. Some people feel better when they get in a good sweat.
If you feel like you want to do something active but just can’t fathom your normal workout, consider scaling back on the intensity. Go for a walk instead of a run. Do some yoga instead of strength training. Decreasing the intensity of your workouts makes breathing during the workout easier and is less taxing on your immune system. If you find that the physical exertion makes you feel worse rather than better, stop and rest until you are well again.
Is It Okay to Go to the Gym?
Since germs are easily spread (and caught) at the gym, try to find other ways to exercise if possible. However, if you do go to the gym, be considerate of others. Wash your hands before you go, wipe down any equipment you use and apply hand sanitizer throughout your workout to lessen the spread of germs.
Bottom Line: Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
Do you have a fitness question for us? Leave a comment below!
Jennifer Bayliss is a fitness expert and coach at Everyday Health. She is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a AFAA certified personal trainer, and holds both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in exercise science.