Should I Still Work Out If I’m Sick (or Skip It)?

The short answer from a sports health expert

woman sick during workout

Q: I’m not feeling so great. Should I still work out, or skip it?

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A: If you find yourself feeling under the weather and debating if you should hit the gym or hit your bed for a nap, consider the “neck check” first.  

If your symptoms are above the neck ― sore throat, coughing, sneezing or runny nose ― it’s typically OK to still work out. But if your symptoms are below the neck ― chest congestion or hacking cough, muscle aches, fever, fatigue or upset stomach ― it’s a good idea to rest.

If you’re feeling less than your best but still want to try to power through a workout, then try to cut your effort by about 50 percent. Walk instead of run. Do one set instead of five. Or try a low-impact activity like yoga.

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The general rule of thumb is to listen to your body. Taking a few days off won’t impact your fitness level. It’s especially important to focus on hydration when you aren’t feeling well. Most people who work out and then feel like it prolonged their sickness are most likely feeling the effects of dehydration, so it’s important to increase fluid intake.

If you have asthma or a heart condition, we recommend speaking with your physician before exercising.

Vikas Patel, DO, primary care sports health physician

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