Feature Image by Matthew LeJune

Should you work out while you’re sick? This is an age-old question that health fanatics, athletes and gym buffs alike ponder. The answer is not so black-and-white as it depends on your symptoms. Like everything in life, exercise is best done in moderation coupled with the wisdom of listening to your body.

If you’re experiencing signs of a common cold (like a scratchy throat, sneezing or a cough), then it’s quite possible to get a workout in. A moderate, low-impact workout of 30 minutes or less can actually help to fight infection as it boosts the immune system.

It’s best, however, to avoid intense or lengthy workouts while you’re under the weather as studies show that intense workouts (even for short periods of time) can weaken the immune system. In periods of increased physical exertion, the body releases stress-fighting steroids that decrease your cells’ ability to fight infection.

Another rule-of-thumb that doctors refer to is the “above the neck” rule. This means that if your symptoms are above the neck, like a runny nose or cough, then you’re OK to engage in physical activity. However, if your symptoms are below the neck, like diarrhea, body aches, a deep, chest cough or fever, it’s best to skip your workout. These are signs that the infection is widespread. 

Keep this in mind: A common cold is an infection of the nose and throat. A light workout such as walking, jogging or yoga — coupled with lots of water — are great exercise options when you have a cold. If it’s anything more than a sniffle, a sneeze or sore throat, then it’s best to skip the gym. Allow your body to direct all its energy toward getting better and fighting off infection.

As always, consult your doctor or physician if you’re unsure about working out while ill.

xx, The FabFitFun Team