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At Home Workout – Should I Workout if I’m Sick?

This is a question I get fairly often and found myself facing when I woke up with a killer cold last week.

Here are three easy guidelines for working out when you’re sick:

1. Is the cold in your head or in your chest?

If it’s just in your head, (meaning, stuffy nose, maybe a little sinus headache but no chest congestion) then it’s still ok to workout. Once the cold hits your chest, it’s time to see the doctor. Pushing yourself too hard in this state could result in a serious lung infection. It’s better to skip a few days of exercise and recover than over do it and end up with a longer term problem.

2. What’s your body saying?

Always remember that your body knows best. Often when you get sick, it’s your body’s way of slowing you down since you won’t do it voluntarily. Ever notice how you get sick at the most inopportune times? Like right in the middle of a busy time at work? A major project? A family crisis? It’s probably because you need to rest. So tune into your body. If you feel up to a workout, have some energy and giving it a go feels like a good choice-go for it. Just stay tuned in during the workout also. No one is judging you if you decide half way through to call it quits. Likewise, sometimes you won’t know until you give it a try-you may even feel better afterwards.

If you are attempting a workout, keep the intensity light to moderate.

3. “But I heard exercise boosts your immune system.”

I’ll let a medical professional field this one. “Moderate exercise won’t prolong your illness or make your symptoms worse, but it may not shorten them, either. One possible benefit of exercising with a cold: If you’re generally well-hydrated, a workout can break up congestion,” notes Leah Mooshil Durst, MD, medical director of the Friend Family Health Center, Inc., and clinical associate at the University of Chicago. “However, your congestion could worsen if you’re dehydrated.”

And here’s a bonus tip for you:

This is 100% my opinion, by the way-the BEST cold remedy ever is sleep.  Refer back to tip #2-it’s what your body wants.  On more than one occasion I’ve felt a cold coming on, went to bed early and felt way better the next day.

What’s your favorite go-to cold remedy?  Share it in the comments and let’s stay healthy, people!

At Home Workout – Should I Workout if I’m Sick?
  • Deanna

    Alkalok is the BEST for nasal congestion or allergies. It is a nasal wash and made with natural oils. Everytime I have a sore throat, or are congested, I rinse for a couple days and feel so clear!! No medicine needed that leaves you with that hangover feeling. Downside…only some CVS (and only CVS) pharmacies carry it, and usually you have to ask a pharmacist because it is behind the counter.

  • Adita

    We use Aromatherapy oils such as Tea Tree and Lavender. These are so gentle and non toxic can be used neet on the skin. We rub our cheats and lung area when we feel something coming on. Sore throats I immediately rub either oil with a cotton ball and all is good!
    I also will diffuse the oils in the room at night so we can breathe in the goodness and sleep like babies 🙂

  • Anne Kendall

    We swear by Cold Quell, an herb we get from our acupuncturist Dr Tad, for those very infrequent times we are exposed to something nasty.

  • Amber

    I just asked this question on your page last week! I came down with a nasty sore throat which led to sinus headaches and eventually moved into my chest with a cough. I missed at least 5 real workouts and when I felt a little better, I rode the bike at the gym or walked on the treadmill, followed by time in the steam room.

    My favorite remedy is sleep when I can get it, followed by a homeopathic OTC medicine called Cold Calm. If you take them as directed, they work. Emergen-C seems to help too, and lots of water!

    Thanks for the post Liz!

  • Heather

    2 tbsp of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar diluted in 8 oz of water at the first sign of a sore throat – nips my colds in the bud (or at least shortens their life)! Amen on sleep as the best remedy! Always on the lookout for a good excuse to sleep!

  • Stacey

    My family only uses Essential oils for immune support and for illness symptoms. No Rx or OTC medicines for us…garbage in, garbage out!

  • Stephenie Zamora

    Sleep, absolutely. Even if I’m pretty sick, a good solid day of total rest and all-day napping gets me back on my feet quicker than anything else.

  • Ruthie

    Thanks for these tips! This JUST happened to me last week when I woke up with a terrible cold. But I took the weekend off (totally off), and slept a LOT, despite wanting so badly to see the fun, outside world. By Monday I felt so much better. I am prone to sinus infections, and have found that by using a Netipot & the nasal wash solution (the whole kit is ~$15) when I feel the slightest bit of congestion coming on makes an enormous difference in kicking it quickly without having to be on antibiotics too often. I love it!

  • Mike Monroe

    My favorite cold remedy??

    Thanks, Liz. Best explanation I found on this. Ever. All this travel… I’ve been feeling super under-the-weather.

  • Dawn

    I don’t get sick often – but when I do I’m down for the count – rest and lots of fluids. But, when I feel just a little “off” it’s mind over matter – I workout to sweat it out and my brain just tells my body that “sick” is just not gunna happen! I do liquid Vitamin D3 each day – suppose to be good for the immune system and my doctor loves to see my bloodwork – I’m her poster child! 🙂