With the change of season, we tend to get sick easily. One question I always get asked by my clients is whether to work out while feeling sick or just take it easy. Although more research is needed, the general guideline according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is that if you have symptoms of a common cold, with no fever and all symptoms above the neck, moderate exercise such as walking should be okay. However, if your symptoms include fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches or swollen lymph glands you should refrain from exercise until you get better.
If you do have to take a week or two off because you’re feeling under the weather, it is important to start exercising slowly and gently.
Listen to your body and take it easy if your body temperature is at or above the 100.5 degrees F. The danger of working out with a fever, the ACSM says, is that you run the risk of kidney ailments, heatstroke and fluid balance problems as your temperature increases even higher.
If your temperature is normal, but you still feel under the weather, take the “neck check” to see whether you should exercise. If your symptoms are above your neck — sneezing, stuffy nose and watery eyes — by all means go ahead with your regular workout, the ACSM says. But if your symptoms are below the neck — nausea, achy muscles and coughing, all indications of the flu — you’re better off laying low for a couple of days. Your immune system is compromised with the flu, and if you work out, you won’t recover as well because a lot of the energy in your body is going to exercise, not recovery.
In both cases, it is important to remember to replenish your electrolytes. Keep these tips in mind:
- Avoid any liquids that contain caffeine. While liquid intake is essential during illness, liquids such as coffee or tea can increase dehydration.
- Sip on a sports drink. They are designed to re-hydrate and are enriched with electrolytes.
- Steer clear of sugary liquids like fruit juices when increasing the intake of liquids. The sugars can make vomiting and diarrhea worse, and provide no beneficial amounts of electrolytes. Instead, eat fresh fruits.
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