Working Out When Sick

With the cooler months in North America approaching, more of us will be spending time indoors in the presence of others.  This dramatically increases the chances of getting a virus or infection.  And the big question every winter is: when is it OK to workout if you’re sick.

I think it’s almost easier to say when it’s NOT ok to work out:

  1. when you have a fever
  2. when you might be contagious
  3. when you feel tired
  4. when you’re leaking bodily fluids -snot, vomit, whatever.

When you are actively sick it’s important to limit to your exposure to others to keep from spreading the germs around.  It’s also of primary importance to rest so you can heal.  So under these circumstances, please do yourself and those around you a favor and rest.

After this point, I’m going split the idea of working out into those times when you might be exercising at home -or outdoors- and those when you’re working out in a gym or class.  Because if you’re feeling OK, I think that occasionally it’s OK to exercise if there isn’t a chance of you sharing any possible germs.

So if you’re going for a run, or doing a workout video at home I think as long you have a cold but have the energy, it’s OK to exercise.  The “common wisdom” I’ve always heard is that if you’re sick “above your shoulders” – with a head cold, for example- that it’s OK to exercise.

Often, in these cases, doing something makes you feel better and may help you rest when you’re home.  However, especially this year -with increased concerns about influenza- I think it’s advisable to spend a couple days longer before heading back into the gym.

First because you might still be contagious -and the gym is a great place to spread germs.  But also because your own immune system is weakened, which sets you up for catching another infection.


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