It’s cold and flu season. I know that most of us would never let a cold slow us down when it comes to working or taking care of the kids – but what about your workout routine? Do you have to stop exercising when you are under the weather?
If you work out regularly (and you should!) you are bound to face this question one time or another, since the CDC estimates that US adults catch a cold two to three times a year. Since you’re going to have to deal with the symptoms, either way, you should have a way to decide when it’s serious enough to pause your routine, and when you should just push through.
Specialists in sports medicine say, the best way to make that decision is to ask yourself, are your symptoms above your neck? They say that for cold symptoms isolated above the neck, i.e.: congestion, sore throat, or sneezing – you can continue light or moderate activity. Try taking a non-drowsy decongestant to help fight your symptoms. If your energy level feels good enough, you can head to the gym, just dial back the intensity of your workout a bit.
On the other hand, if your symptoms are more intense – like those of the flu – and concentrated below the neck, such as coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or body aches and pains, you should flat-out skip your workout. These symptoms can point to a more serious infection. Plus, not only will you likely not be able to tolerate your normal routine, but attempting it could also put you at risk for respiratory problems, dehydration, dizziness, or even passing out.
Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic says that you should always let your body be your guide. If you feel miserable, take a break. A few days off from exercise when you’re sick shouldn’t affect your performance. Resume your normal workout routine gradually as you begin to feel better. Check with your doctor if you aren’t sure if it’s OK to exercise.
If you do choose to exercise when you’re sick, reduce the intensity and length of your workout. If you attempt to exercise at your normal intensity when you have more than a simple cold, you could risk more-serious injury or illness.
Do you think it is important to keep up an exercise regimen when you are sick? What do you do to change your workout routine when you are sick? Reply in the comments below.