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Exercising While Sick: Advice From the Trenches

Posted Apr 02 2013 10:03pm

Sick Young Woman Lying in Bed

You’ve gotten into a good routine.  You’re taking a walk outside nearly every other day, and that Zumba class on Saturdays is no longer kicking your butt- well at least not that much anyway.  And then it happens.  You’re hit with a cold, the flu, or a nasty stomach virus that just knocks you and your routine for a loop.  You want to stay on track.  You want to make sure that the progress you’ve made isn’t wasted.  However, you also don’t want to do more harm than good.  Here’s a few tips to help you know how and when to exercise when you’re not feeling 100%

Tip # 1:  Fever = No exercise

I never thought I’d be telling readers not to exercise, but in this case, the medical profession is pretty straight forward.  If you’re running a fever, the best thing you can do is to take it easy and rest.  No exercise for you!  A fever, even a mild one is an indication that your body is fighting and infection, and it needs all the resources it can get to do so.  Exercise puts stress on the body, so doing a few jumping jacks while you’re running a fever is like attacking your body from the side while it defends from the front. 

Tip # 2: Light to Moderate Exercise is Okay During a Head Cold

If you’re not running a fever and are only suffering from nasal or sinus congestion or headache, light to moderate exercise may be the way to go.  For many people exercising when you have a head cold can actually relieve some of the symptoms such as nose congestion, headache and the usual pressure that comes with sinus trouble.  However, listen to your body.  If doing your exercise routine is making you feel worse, take a breather.  Trust me, that hill outside your front door will still be there tomorrow.

Tip # 3:  Symptoms Below the Neck? Take It Easy

If your symptoms are primarily below the neck, i.e. body aches, chest congestion, hacking cough, or upset stomach, it’s probably best to take a breather from your exercise routine for a few days.   Symptoms such as these are signs of a serious infection, and just like when you’re running a fever, you need to let your body have all the resources it can to fight off the infection.

Tip # 4:  Get Your Doctor Involved–Before You Get Sick

Let’s face it- most of us don’t go to the doctor’s office unless we’re sick.  However, when it comes to exercise and living a healthy lifestyle, its important that both you and your doctor work together as a team.  Getting your doctor involved with your new healthy lifestyle from the beginning can help the two of you get a better handle on what your normal is.  That way, when you’re sick, your doctor can help you get back to your optimal normal more efficiently.

Tip # 5:  Don’t Beat Yourself Up

If you’re sick, you are sick.  It happens to everyone.  The best thing you can do is to take care of your body, mind and spirit and make sure you have what you need.  If you’re feeling the need to something, anything during your normal exercise hour than I would suggest doing something to “exercise” either your mind or spirit.  You can meditate.  You can read a book.  Have a vibrant conversation with a friend.  Play I-Spy with your child.  Tackle that New York Times Crossword Puzzle.  After all, living a healthy life is about being healthy in all aspects of it, right?

About Laura Seeber ( 22 Posts )

Laura Seeber is a geologist, environmental professional, writer, and outdoor and nature enthusiast. Born just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Laura has spent the majority of her life hiking through the forest, descending into caves, climbing over boulders and up cliffs, navigating river rapids, and writing and blogging about her adventures. She currently resides in Illinois and travels country in search of the next great outdoor activity or adventure.

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