Should You Exercise if You're Sick? 4 Things You Should Know

November 13, 2013
by Michael Barber
Should You Exercise if You're Sick? 4 Things You Should Know

More and more people are eating healthier and participating in daily exercise plans. Even the healthiest of people can catch a cold or the flu, and then wonder if they should exercise when they are hit by these viruses. Here are four things you should ask yourself before working out.

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Do You Have a Fever?

WebMD recommends if you have a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit, skip the work out. In their interview with Lewis G. Maharam, a New York sports medicine expert, WebMD asked the doctor about exercising with a fever, "The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever, because that can make you even sicker."

Instead of hitting the gym or your yoga class, drink plenty of fluids and take a fever reducer that will also help with body aches. Rest is also essential so snuggle up in your pajamas. If your fever reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit or fever reducers are not lowering the fever below 101 degrees Fahrenheit, head to an urgent care center for medical treatment.

Related: Afraid of Germs? Use These Tips to Survive the Cold & Flu Season

How Sick Is Too Sick?

The Mayo Clinic offers some good tips on how to determine if you're too sick to work out. A bad flu may prevent working out due to aches, pains, and fever but for a cold without a fever, "exercise may even help you feel better by opening up your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion," said Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Edward R. Laskowski.

Dr. Laskowski says a good rule of thumb is if your symptoms are "above the neck" it's probably okay to exercise. These symptoms include nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and minor sore throat. However, he also says switching from a tough workout to a walk, yoga, or Pilates routine will still gain the benefits you want without making you feel worse.

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Will Exercising Make Me Sicker?

As far as exercising making you sicker, if your symptoms are "below the neck," that means it's best to get some rest, sip on broths, and drink lots of fluids. Men's Health says symptoms below the neck include a hacking cough, chest congestion, chills, fever, muscle aches, and an upset stomach..

Dr. Ted Epperly told Men's Health, "you can't sweat your way back to health," and "you may inadvertently prolong the illness or make it worse."  For example, if you do exercise with symptoms "below the neck" and find you're feeling worse, it may be best to head to a walk-in clinic near you to be examined by a family care physician.

What Does Your Body Say?

Both the Mayo Clinic and WebMD say, "let your body be your guide." Not everyone has the same severity of symptoms. Some people may feel worse after exercising, where others won't. How the flu affects your body, seasonal flu types, and if a cold has progressed to a sinus infection are all good reasons to avoid exercising.

Related: Care Continuum: Where to Go When Your Sick or Injured

No matter what kind of symptoms you're having during cold and flu season, if they get worse when exercising, don't play with your health. Find a retail clinic staffed with medical providers that can determine if your cold or flu has progressed to an infection.