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  • Writer's pictureDavid Wilderman

How To Determine If You’re Too Sick To Exercise

Getting sick is inevitable. As a matter of fact, most adults usually get two to three respiratory infections each year. But we all have obligations that can’t wait, especially if it’s a newly made New Year’s resolution. It can certainly feel like a huge setback, and more so when it involves a new focus on getting healthier. Common sense should tell you that if you’ve got a little cold, then scale back the intensity and duration of your workout. However, there are instances where you should back off completely and take time off. Here are some considerations so you know the difference.

Let’s start with an easy rule to remember–if your symptoms occur from your neck up, then it’s alright to perform a light exercise routine. If, however, your symptoms travel below your neck–stay home! In other words, if you have a common cold, which is often limited to upper respiratory symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose, then it’s usually okay to exercise. However, if you’re experiencing general achiness, GI symptoms, chest congestion, or profound weakness, then stay home and drink plenty of fluids.

Now let me clarify one exception to the “above the neck” rule, and that being whether or not you have a fever. Since a fever is going to raise your body’s core temperature, which will also happen when you exercise, you should avoid working out period. Coupled with the fact that you’re most likely also going to be dehydrated, you don’t want to add insult to injury by taxing your body with any type of exercise workout. And once your fever has broken or you’ve recovered from a bad illness, it’s best to avoid exercising for at least the next 24 to 48 hours. And when you do finally resume your exercise routine, don’t pick up where you left off–ramp up slowly.

Now, under normal circumstances (aside from being sick and exercising), regular, moderate activity can help your immune system which, in turn, helps to prevent future illness. Note–the key word being moderate. Whenever you perform extreme exercise at very high levels, then you compromise your immune system (think running a marathon).

So the bottom line? Listen to your body! If you don’t feel well, then take it easy and back off. Even if you’ve been medically cleared to resume exercising, there’s nothing wrong with taking off an extra day or two to focus on eating healthy meals, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting some much needed extra rest. However, if you do decide to go back to the gym, please make sure to sanitize all equipment that you touch before and after your workout.

It is extremely important to make sure that, in order to minimize your risk of getting sick, you keep your immune system on high alert. This includes taking the necessary steps to minimize stress, get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, stop smoking, and get proper nutrition through healthy well-balanced meals and snacks. Remember–you want your body to have a healthy immune system before you start challenging it with a new exercise regimen.

Do you or someone you know have questions on how to get started with designing an individualized exercise program, as well as strategies to make sure you properly recover in the most effective way? Call my office at once at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!

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