Working out when sick is often a debated topic, partly because it’s hard to judge levels of “sickness” for other people and even for yourself. A runny nose can be annoying but not necessarily a reason to skip the gym, and some people will say that working out helps to beat a cold and others will suggest that it can lower the immune system even more.
One thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to figure out whether you’re well enough to workout or not is that you can still get the body moving but not have to commit to the full out workout that you would normally do. If you’re feeling up to just a walk, maybe just take a walk. Pushing yourself past the point of comfort is not the goal here.
But when you do feel good enough to get up and do some form of exercise it might be able to help. Low impact exercise can increase the body’s ability to fight illness, but push too hard and you start to put stress on the body which will decrease its ability. It’s sort of a fine line.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t be working out if you have a fever or symptoms like vomiting. Coughs in the chest could be a sign of a deeper infection as well. Obviously these could cause some issues and mean that you’re probably in the contagious phase of being sick.
If your symptoms are stuck in the head area however you might be good to go. Often it’s hard to tell the difference between a head cold and serious allergies, but either way it is generally considered safe to workout. Maybe keep some tissues nearby so you don’t totally gross anyone out. Better yet, maybe workout somewhere where germ passing isn’t going to be an issue at all. This is also for your own best interest, because gyms are crawling in germs and if your immune system is already down you could be putting yourself at risk for getting even more sick.
A naturopathic physician in Ellicott City, Maryland named Dr. Bryan Walsh has suggested the following:
“Let your symptoms be your guide. If you’re up for a walk or some light cardio, go for it. If you want to do some lighter-weight, higher-rep stuff just to keep things moving, that’s probably OK too. But if you want to sit around watching reruns of Married With Children, laughter is great medicine as well.”
Good advice. If you wanted an excuse to stay on the couch and wait out your sickness then you’ve got the okay on that as well. Physical fitness can start to waver pretty quickly when you stop working out, but a couple days is not going to hurt you. In fact, it might give you the chance to not only rest up and recover from your illness, but also let your muscles recover.