Regardless of how often you exercise, you might wonder at some point if you should exercise when sick. While this varies depending on the person (you know your body better than anyone else), there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when you are trying to decide.
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If you have a fever, stay home! Not only is your body trying to fight off whatever infection you have, you are also most likely to be contagious. If you are around other people while you are running a fever, you are exposing them to your illness as well. It’s usually not a hard decision to forgo exercise when you have a fever -- your bed is likely calling your name, not the gym.
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Coughs can be a little more tricky than fevers when deciding if you should exercise or not. If you just have an occasional dry cough, then you are probably fine to continue your exercise routine. However, if your cough is productive or frequent and interferes with your ability to breathe properly when your heart rate is up, you should consider resting until the cough has improved. If you feel your cough falls somewhere in between, you will have to use your own judgment to decide if exercise is right for you.
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Congestion and runny noses generally aren’t reason enough to stay away from your workout routine, but if you have significant difficulty breathing due to the congestion, you may want to tone it down a bit until it improves. And the color of the mucous really doesn’t matter. Just because it is yellow or green does not mean your infection is bacterial. Viral illnesses can cause discolored mucous just as easily as bacterial ones.
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Your energy level is one of the best indicators of whether or not you should be exercising. If you are tired and feel worn out, you should let your body rest and recover before you begin exercising again. If you have a simple cold and your energy level is still where it normally is, you are probably fine to exercise.
The Bottom Line
Whether or not you should exercise when you are sick is really an individual decision based on your specific symptoms and how you are feeling. If you do not exercise regularly, it is probably best to wait until you are feeling well before starting a fitness routine. If you aren't sure, check with your healthcare provider.
It is also interesting to note at least one study has shown that people who get regular exercise are less likely to catch colds and get sick. So there is one more reason to get up off the couch and get moving! As long as you are feeling up to it, of course.
”Exercise – colds and flu.” Medical Encyclopedia 22 Feb 09. US National Library of Medicine. 08 April 09.