Is It Healthy to Exercise When You’re Sick?

By , Category : General Health

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Working Out When You’re SickIt’s that time of the year again—the gyms are still packed with those who made exercising their New Year’s resolution (or at least those who have stuck it out so far) and the cold virus is making its rounds.

While it’s no surprise that exercise is healthy, is it healthy to exercise when you’re not feeling well?

Health Before Fitness: Rest Most Important When You’re Sick

A good workout gets your blood flowing, your heart racing, and the sweat pouring. It can make you feel great, even offering euphoric sensations as your body releases neurotransmitters and hormones in response to training. But sometimes, it’s best to stay away from the gym if you’re not feeling your best, even if the workout itself makes you feel better.

I know we’re only a couple of weeks into the New Year and you’re probably sticking to your new exercise routine like it’s a matter of life or death, but you could be hurting yourself and others if you’re in the gym while you’re under the weather. Fitness should never come before health, so if you’re ill, you should take some time away from the gym and recover. This way you’ll lower your risk of further illness, speed up your recovery time, and keep others safe from catching whatever you had.

Exercising Good If You’re Sick? That Depends…

If you’ve got a common cold, you can work out without putting yourself in too much danger. Breathing may be slightly more difficult and you might tire a little faster, but there is nothing serious to worry about. Of course, the other people using the free weights or attending yoga class might feel a little differently.

If you’re sick and use the gym, you need to keep other people in mind. Generally speaking, you’re contagious for up to five days and germs can spread very easily in gyms, being left behind on dumbbells, machines, and other equipment. Remember to always clean off the equipment you’ve used and, at the very least, avoid the gym during those first five days you’re contagious.

If you’ve got a stomach bug, you’re going to want to stay out of the gym altogether. Working out can be quite dangerous if you’re experiencing vomiting or diarrhea because you’ll be low on fluids already; if you’re sweating at the gym, you’ll be even more dehydrated and it can result in potential injury or severe dehydration. The best thing to do with this type of illness is to stay home, rest, and drink as many fluids as possible. Don’t work out under any circumstances!

The same goes for the flu. If you have a fever, exercise can be dangerous because your temperature is already elevated. Exercise will only contribute to higher temperatures and more severe dehydration. The flu can take you out of the gym for three to five days, but waiting until you’re fully recovered is the best idea for a faster recovery and your overall health. A simple rule to go by is to avoid the gym until you’ve been able to go 24 hours without having to take any medication.

To get the most from your exercise plan—and promote your heath as best you can—stay away from the gym when you’re ill. But don’t let any minor sneeze, sniffle, or cough keep you back, either. Remember, you shouldn’t be searching for excuses to cut back!

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Dr. Richard Foxx, MD

About the Author, Browse Richard's Articles

Richard M. Foxx, MD has decades of medical experience with a comprehensive background in endocrinology, aesthetic and laser medicine, gynecology, and sports medicine. He has extensive experience with professional athletes, including several Olympic competitors. Dr. Foxx practices aesthetic and laser medicine, integrative medicine, and anti-aging medicine. He is the founder and Medical Director of the Medical and Skin Spa located in Indian Wells, California, at the Hyatt Regency Resort. Dr. Foxx is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners... Read Full Bio »