Have a Cold? When Not to Exercise

‘Tis the season for colds and flu. No matter how hard you work to take care of yourself, sometimes illness is inevitable.

Should I rest? Should I exercise? Well, that all depends on how you feel. “Exercise could help or hurt, depending on your symptoms,” says Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Michael Boothby. Learn to discern.

The Neck Check

The “neck check” is a general rule of thumb regarding exercise and illness: If your symptoms are above the neck, it might be safe to exercise; however, if your symptoms are below the neck, it’s best to rest. Use your judgment.

Above the neck: Symptoms that are above the neck include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, and sneezing.
Below the neck: Symptoms that are below the neck may include chest congestion, hacking cough, body aches, chills, diarrhea, or an upset stomach.

The Fever Factor

Regardless of what you uncovered during your neck check, a fever trumps all.

If you have a fever, refrain from exercising until your temperature returns to normal. A fever is a sign that your body is fighting an infection. You want to provide your body the rest it needs to do this important work.
Do not exercise if you are experiencing fever, fatigue, or overall body aches.

How to Exercise During Illness

You’ve passed the neck check, and you don’t have a fever. Use your judgment and listen to your body. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Reduce intensity. Studies have shown that exercising at a low-moderate intensity level will not compromise the immune system or increase the symptoms of a cold. However, high-intensity exercise can have a negative impact on the immune system. What does that mean for you? Opt for an easy walk or jog over weightlifting or high-intensity aerobic exercise.
  • Reduce duration. Your body is using its reserves to fight illness. If you must exercise, make it brief. This is not a time to build fitness; it’s a time to move your body gently to relieve congestion and maintain the fitness foundation you’ve already built.
  • Rest. Allow more time for rest than you normally would. Exercise plus illness is a double whammy for your body. Allow it time to recover by getting extra sleep.
  • Water. Hydration is always important, but it’s even more critical when you’re ill. Drink more water than you normally would.

Fort Worth Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Michael Boothby is a highly respected member of the orthopedic community. Dr. Boothby is Board Certified and Medical Director of The Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute. Dr. Boothby has been named Top10MD for two years in a row. Only 1 in 3 doctors succeed with this recognition in the United States. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Boothby link to his profile or call 817-529-1900 today.