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Most people fall into one of two camps when it comes to working out while sick. They will either call it quits the second their noses get the slightest bit stuffy, or they’ll try to power through a tough workout despite almost being on death’s door, much to the chagrin of their fellow gym goers. Just because you have a slight cold doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t work out. However, there is a line. So how sick is too sick to work out?
First, if you have a fever over 100 degrees, don’t work out. You don’t need to be raising your heart rate and core body temperature any more than it already is. If you feel nauseous or have been sick to your stomach, you are also too ill to exercise. A fever, vomiting and diarrhea all make you more susceptible to becoming dehydrated, and working out certainly won’t make that better. Stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Most people are well aware of this and wouldn’t even attempt to hit the gym.
Colds are where it can get tricky for most people. A general rule of thumb is that if you are sick in the neck and above, it’s probably okay to exercise. A little stuffy or runny nose may be annoying, but it likely isn’t cause to skip a workout altogether. In fact, an easy run or bike ride followed by a warm shower can help ease congestion.
When you have a cough, especially one that’s deep in your chest, it could interfere with your breathing and make working out uncomfortable. If you’re suffering from chills or body aches, it’s best to skip the gym. They could be a sign of the flu or a fever.
If you aren’t sure about how you will feel, you could just give it a try for ten to fifteen minutes just to see how you feel. If you don’t get into a groove or just feel terrible, stop. Of course, you can still exercise with a cold. Ease off a little bit to give your body a break. Take a walk instead of going for a run or do some gentle yoga. You’ll get your body moving without draining all your energy.
If you do take some time off due to illness, don’t just jump right back in to your normal routine once you feel better. You could have some lingering weakness or fatigue that could be worsened or exacerbated by exercising. Give yourself one more day than you think you need before you start exercising again, especially if you were very sick. Once you do get back into your routine, don’t go at it 100 percent. Ease back into your routine to give your body time to adjust.
Ultimately, though, it will vary from person to person. What one person considers a mild cold is another person’s very sick. If you feel like your illness will negatively impact your workout, or that you’ll feel worse after exercising, then skip it and take a rest day.