Should you Work Out When Sick?

by Valerie Demetros

Sometimes, psyching yourself up for a workout is tough. But if you’re not feeling 100%, it’s even harder.

If you’re not sure when to exercise when ill, there are a few factors to determine if you should stay home or go for it.

For starters, there are solid reasons for exercising with a cold. Some doctors recommend gentle movements to boost the immune system, depending on how sick you are. It can even give you a boost from endorphins to make you feel better.

Studies show that exercise decreases your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. As you exercise, your body releases the hormones and neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine, which increase your heart rate and elevate your respiratory rate. Your muscles receive more blood flow and oxygen, and your airways open for more oxygen.

Your workout will also give you a hit of dopamine, a neurotransmitter and hormone that boosts your mood, which can be just what you need.

But there’s a fine line between expending energy working out and your immune system’s ability to fight infection. A lot of your energy when sick is channeled toward fighting whatever you’re fighting.

Generally, moderate activity is usually all right if you have a common cold and no fever. Exercise can open your nasal passages and temporarily relieve nasal congestion.

If all your symptoms are above the neck like a runny nose, nasal congestion or sneezing, go ahead and don your sneakers. You’ll want to reduce the intensity and length to give your body a break.

If your symptoms are below the neck like chest congestion, upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting or even a hacking cough, postpone the workout. Other red flags include fatigue, high fever and widespread muscle aches. Of course, with any contagious illness you should stay home.

Ultimately, let your body be your guide. A few days off shouldn’t affect your performance, and then resume your workout gradually.

And remember, being sick can leave you dehydrated and tired. Stay hydrated and be careful of injuries.