THE BLOG

Should You Exercise When You're Sick?

The back of your throat is feeling dry and scratchy. Your nose is a little runny. Maybe you're feeling a little achy. You'd planned to workout today, but now you're not so sure. There's a chance it could make you feel better...you know, sweat things out a bit. But it's also possible it could make you feel worse. Maybe a lot worse. What do you do: workout or take a day off?
03/15/2016 05:53pm ET | Updated March 16, 2017
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The back of your throat is feeling dry and scratchy. Your nose is a little runny. Maybe you're feeling a little achy. You'd planned to workout today, but now you're not so sure. There's a chance it could make you feel better...you know, sweat things out a bit. But it's also possible it could make you feel worse. Maybe a lot worse. What do you do: workout or take a day off?

I've been asked this question quite a bit lately (we are knee deep in cold and flu season) and I recently had to deal with it myself.

This can be a tough call. You're not flat out, can't get out of bed, have to call in sick, but you're definitely not 100 percent. Or maybe you've already taken several days off because you've been sick, and want to get back in the swing of things.

IT'S NOT A OR B.
We often approach problems in a binary way: choose option A or B. In this instance, I either workout or I don't. This (as well as most other decisions we make) does not have to be an either/or proposition - there are always more than two options. Maybe you workout, but you decrease the intensity by 50 percent. Perhaps you workout for half the time you normally do. You might go for a walk. Or you do 10-20 minutes of a really well rounded stretching routine.

WHEN TO TAKE THE DAY OFF
A helpful assessment tool is to ask yourself where the majority of your symptoms are. If they're below your head - diarrhea, vomiting, aches or pains in the muscles or joints - it's better to take some time off. If they're from the head up - runny nose, congestion, sore throat - you may be fine with a lighter workout. With this being said, if you're running a fever, you definitely should not exercise.

GIVE IT A SHOT
If you still can't make up your mind, start your workout and see how you feel. You may find that once you get warmed up, the blood starts to flow and you break a light sweat that you're actually feeling pretty good. Or you may feel like your head is going to explode, you can hear your pulse in your ears and there's a high possibility you're going to hurl. In which case, you've got your answer.