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Ask the Expert: Exercising When Sick

With cold and flu season upon us, today’s reader question will help you determine whether you should keep working out or take a  much needed rest day!

Q: I have had a stuffy nose and cough for a few weeks now, and I am afraid that cutting out exercise will lead me to fall off the wagon.  Is it OK to exercise when sick?

A: This time of year many of us are faced with respiratory sicknesses like allergies and sinus infections, which can be an obstacle in our adherence to exercise.  It can be challenging to decide when it’s okay to continue with your exercise program and when you should take a day off.  At H3, we talk about the “above the neck” sicknesses – if your symptoms are above the neck, like a runny nose or sinus pressure, exercise is still okay.  Physical activity may actually aid in relieving symptoms by increasing blood flow, releasing stress, and unclogging your sinuses.  If you find that your symptoms worsen, however, you may want to consider lowering your intensity or taking a day off.  

Symptoms below the neck, such as body aches, diarrhea or other stomach problems, and especially a fever, are all signs that you should take it easy until you’re feeling better.  Allowing some time off from your exercise routine when you’re sick can be an important part of self care.  Health and Wellness does not only include getting your workout in – remember the other pieces are important too – eating a balance diet, drinking water, getting adequate sleep, and even remembering to wash your hands frequently when you’re in public areas all play a vital role in your health and well being.

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