Common sense says that you shouldn't exercise when you're sick. But could exercise actually help you feel better?
I've been sick with a cold these past three days. It's a pain, I've been a bit grumpy, and my family notices. But yet I still have my fitness to worry about. I don't want to lose the progress I've made, but I don't feel much like doing anything. To exercise, or not, that is the question.
Here's what WebMD says:
Fever is the limiting factor, says Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a New York City-based sports medicine expert. "The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever, because that can make you even sicker," he tells WebMD. If you have a fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, sit this one out.
Maharam's rule of thumb for exercising when sick? "Do what you can do, and if you can't do it, then don't," he says. "Most people who are fit tend to feel worse if they stop their exercise, but if you have got a bad case of the flu and can't lift your head off the pillow, then chances are you won't want to go run around the block."
Personal trainer and exercise physiotherapist Geralyn Coopersmith, senior manager of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute in New York, has this to add: "The general rule is that if it is just a little sniffle and you take some medications and don't feel so sick, it's OK to work out. But if you have any bronchial tightness, it's not advisable to be working out."
You really need to know your limits, she says. "If you are feeling kind of bad, you may want to consider a walk instead of a run. Take the intensity down or do a regenerative activity like yoga or Pilates because if you don't feel great, it may not be the best day to do your sprints," says Coopersmith, the author of Fit and Female: The Perfect Fitness and Nutrition Game Plan for Your Unique Body Type.
"A neck check is a way to determine your level of activity during a respiratory illness," adds Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. "If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and tearing eyes, then it's OK to exercise," he says. "If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, then it's time to hang up the running shoes until these symptoms subside."
So I've just been listening to my body. If I didn't get a good sleep, I sleep in. Yesterday I did a strength/cardio session at the gym, but I only did 2/3 of what I normally do. It actually helped me feel better, so I would suggest that if you're up to it and don't have a fever, go for it. Otherwise, perhaps just take small walks and wait for yourself to get a little better.