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You Asked: Working Out When Sick

Hi Fit -
As we enter into cold and flu season, I have always struggled with whether I should continue to exercise when I get sick or not. If you know the answer, could you do a post on the subject and let us know? Thanks!
— Sneezy Louise

Since cold and flu season started a lot of folks have asked me if they should workout if they're sick. Well, a good rule of thumb when figuring out the answer is the neck check. Exercise is generally considered OK if your symptoms are all above the neck - sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, congestion. Light cardio might actually help reduce these symptoms and give your immune system a little boost.

But, if your symptoms are below the neck like fever, chest cough (with lots of phlegm) or nausea you should probably choose your couch over kick boxing. Exercising can make those symptoms worse.

I say listen to your body. If you are just tired or in the throes of PMS a workout could really do you some good.


Join The Conversation
amber_castaldo amber_castaldo 9 years
I did this the other day, I was starting to feel good so I decided to workout. I ended up getting a little dizzy and then the instructor went into a panic because I took a break. It was really funny. I think they thought that I was workout crazy.
Marlovestar Marlovestar 9 years
I have a rule: if I'm feeling well enough to go to work then I can go to the gym. So I just go lightly on the treadmill for 20 minutes so that I feel like i've accomplished something.
caramelmacchiato caramelmacchiato 9 years
I get sick like clockwork every December, and there is no way it's keeping me from the gym, but guys, I have just one request: After you work out at a gym (ESPECIALLY if you're sniffly) PLEASE WIPE THE MACHINE (before and after!). If there are no antibacterial towlettes, you can use a paper towel and some antibacterial gel or SOMETHING. Please. I beg of you.
EllaBella EllaBella 9 years
I think as long as you listen to your body you'll be fine! :)
Allytta Allytta 9 years
what about lymph nodes? there are on the neck :) i usually get them swallen everytime i come down with a cold.
bellechic bellechic 9 years
working out while sick just seems to prolong the illness... ugh
pugglelover pugglelover 9 years
Just don't go to the gym there are already enough germs there and can easily spread to others. Most gyms lack in the hygiene area!
marygrace marygrace 9 years
over the summer i could feel myself coming down with something. since it hurt when i swallowed i thought maybe it was strep, but since it wasn't too bad yet, i decided to take a seven mile run. BAD IDEA! even though the sickness wasn't in my lungs, going for that run totally knocked me out, and i developed the most painful sore throat i'd ever had that didn't even begin to subside for close to two weeks.
Lavinie Lavinie 9 years
i once thought i had a mere cold - with a slight fever - and even though i knew i was sick,i thought going to the gym would help and i went to work out.. BIG MISTAKE!!!- after that - i started the worst cough and fever and i eventually lost my voice.. it's tough sometimes to stay in bed when you want to go work out - but you should always listen to your body first.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
i say if you have the flu don't go to the gym and get germs all over everything!
klandrach klandrach 9 years
If you are hacking a lunge please stay at home! I hate going to the gym and being on a cardio machine next to someone that is coughing all over the place. Gross!
ElectroPopTart ElectroPopTart 9 years
When I'm sick but I wanna work out, I just put on sweats to stay really warm and dance in my room to Madonna for an hour. It's fun and I can be snotty and ugly and coughy all I want cuz I'm at home! It feels great to get your blood flowing when you're sick cuz it opens up all the nasal passage and I feel more clear. =)
VicVicVictooriaa VicVicVictooriaa 9 years
i had a head cold (stress induced..finals and working 4 days a week instead of my usual 0 yay i finally have a job) recently but i decided to go for a nice jog during it. It was great! I was able to breathe better while running than sitting down and i was cured like 13 hrs later!! this comment had no point
julieulie julieulie 9 years
When I have a cold working out always makes me feel better -- for whatever reason, it opens up my throat and nose and I can breathe SO much better. It's never seemed to extend the length of time that I am sick... but if I am REALLY sick of course I just lay on the couch. I usually work out towards the end of the illness when I know the absolute worst is behind me.
Feesje Feesje 9 years
You can still do some Pilates or yoga exercises at home.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Those are the rules I follow too. A stuffy nose or slightly sore throut won't let me stray form the gym. But if it's my lungs and my body is sore and achy I will tend to stay at home. Usually, if I can go to work I can go to gym.
7kimba7 7kimba7 9 years
My trainer said this to me when I asked her a couple weeks ago: While a work-out will make you feel better at that moment, that's temporary. She said your body needs rest and calories to make you better in the long run. I was sentenced to my futon and sleep. And she brought me green tea to my next session. I heart her.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I've made this mistake before and ended up even more sick...
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