You’ve finally gotten into a groove””going to the gym every day, eating right, feeling good about your progress. Then it happens. You get sick. And as you cope with a steadily worsening cough, runny nose and sore throat, you start to battle with yourself: I can still exercise! I’m not that sick. I should stick to my routine. Right?
Not always. If you’re sure that the bug you’ve caught is just a common cold, it’s safe to continue working out. In fact, it might even help you feel better. Engaging in physical activity can help clear your nasal passages and release adrenalin (epinephrine), which acts as a natural decongestant.
Although exercising won’t shorten the duration of a particular cold, people who exercise regularly tend to get well quicker and experience less severe symptoms when sickness hits.
If symptoms start to head south, however, showing up as stomach issues, or you’ve developed a fever or muscle pain, it’s best to rest and let your body recover. Refer to this guide when in doubt:
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
Continue exercise at low intensity levels.
- Dry cough
- Sore muscles
Exercise is not recommended. Resume more intense physical activity when symptoms have cleared.
Even though it may be OK to work out when you’re not feeling 100%, take care not to expose others to your illness. The best option may be to work out at home; but if you choose to go to the gym, wipe down all equipment after using it (which should be done anyway, sick or not). If your gym doesn’t supply cleaning materials, bring your own wipes.
Remember, the best way to avoid illness is prevention:
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Avoid rapid weight loss
- Get adequate sleep
- Wash and sanitize your hands frequently
- Avoid placing hands near your eyes, nose or mouth