Exercising when unwell: A good idea?
You’re not feeling your best. Should you exercise when unwell or opt out? Here’s some advice on how to decide.
You have been keeping up your new exercise routine, rarely missing a day
since you started it - and then, all of a sudden, you are attacked
by a cold or flu.
What should you do? Should you avoid the treadmill or forsake that Pilates
class for a late afternoon nap? Will it be hard to start again if you miss a
day or two?
Exercising when unwell: should you or shouldn’t you?
The answer depends on your symptoms, experts say. For example, exercising
with a cold may be fine, but if you have a temperature, going to the gym is a
Sports medicine expert, Dr Lewis G. Maharam, says that a temperature is the
limiting factor. "The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature
internally if you already have a fever, because that can make you even sicker",
he says. If your temperature is above 38.3C (101F) the advice is to opt
Maharam's rule of thumb for exercising when unwell? "Do what you can do, and
if you can't do it, then don’t". He says that most people who are fit tend to
feel worse if they stop their exercise, but that if you have flu and can't lift
your head off the pillow, then the chances are you won't want to go running
round the park.
Personal trainer and exercise physiotherapist, Geralyn Coopersmith, adds
that it’s generally all right to work out if all you have is a little sniffle,
and if you don’t feel bad. “But if you have any bronchial tightness, it’s not
advisable to be working out”, she says.
You really need to know your limits if you’re feeling unwell, she says. “You
may want to consider a walk instead of a run. Take the intensity down or do a
regenerative activity like yoga or Pilates”, says Coopersmith.
"A neck check is a way to determine your level of activity during a
respiratory illness", adds Dr Neil Schachter, at Mount Sinai Medical Centre in
New York. "If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal
congestion, sneezing, and watering eyes, then you are OK to exercise", he says.
"If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and
fatigue, then it's time to hang up the running shoes until these symptoms
How long will you be out of action?
An uncomplicated cold in an adult should be completely gone in about seven
A flu that develops complications such as bronchitis or sinusitis can last
two weeks, he says. "The symptoms of cough and congestion can linger for weeks
if not treated". In general, flu, even if uncomplicated, can make you feel
pretty rotten for 10 days to two weeks.