Working Out While Sick

January 27, 2021

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Should I Still Exercise?  

Even with COVID-19 still going on this winter, it is most likely that the seasonal colds and flus are traveling around. And even with masking and lots of handwashing, there is still the possibility that you may find yourself sidelined with a cold for a few days. Now if you are someone who likes to exercise everyday, the dilemma may set in about whether you should exercise or not. Of course going to the gym is out of the question right now because most likely the trainers will pick up on your congestion and hoarse voice and kindly ask you to leave, but we spent months exercising at home anyways. So if you are fortunate enough to have a few dumbbells and yoga mat lying around at home, the question still remains; should you exercise when you are sick?  

First, it is probably going to be the best idea to skip the exercise for the first few days of the illness to see if symptoms are going to worsen. What feels like a common cold could quickly turn into what is actually the flu or worse after the first day or two. After say 4 or 5 days though and you can confirm that it is indeed just a cold, exercise may be added to the daily agenda. This all depends on your symptoms during the second half of the illness and is not a simple “yes or no” answer. Use this guide to determine if you should exercise based on your symptoms:  

  • Runny Nose and Congestion: Scaling back your workout to a brisk walk or light body weight exercises may actually help to open up your nasal passages and relieve some of the head pressure in your sinuses.  

  • Fever: Even if it is a linger and mild fever...SKIP the exercises. Any exercise could lead to an injury or worse as your muscles are already in a weakened state and your internal temperature could go even higher.  

  • Sore Throat: As long as it is not accompanied by a fever or body aches, light exercises like walking, yoga, and body weight exercises could help you feel a little better. Just make sure you are drinking water before, after, and during to help keep your throat moist.  

  • Cough: Even if it is a dry cough, skip! This could indicate that you may have an infection deeper in your lungs and exercise could only exacerbate things. Anytime there is a wet or dry cough, avoiding exercise is always a good idea.  

  • Upset Stomach: Exercising with an upset stomach or diarrhea is never a good idea. It could only lead to dehydration which will make you feel worse.  

Even though you can still exercise with only a few mild symptoms it is also key that you scale back the training. Forget about the heavy weights and intense cardio exercises for now and wait until you are fully recovered. All of these exercises can be light such as yoga, body weight exercises, and walking. These are just enough to get some blood flowing and loosen up those muscles without making you feel sore and exhausted. For added benefit take a long and hot shower afterwards to help clear your nasal passages. Share some of your favorite ways to get body movement and exercise while you have a cold at Healthy.UNH@unh.edu!  

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