You've made the New Year's resolution. You've mapped out your kickass 2019 workout regimen. You're all ready to stick to the plan and then—boom—you wake up feeling like a train wreck. You are not alone. Last year over 49 million people came down with a bug during flu season, and this year will likely be just as relentless.
You might be wondering whether it's smart—or even safe—to keep working out while you're under the weather. The answer is not as simple as you might think. Depending on how sick you are, exercising can either improve your symptoms or make them significantly worse, and the kind of exercise you do while you're sick also makes a difference. Consider the following do's and don'ts before you decide whether or not to put those sneakers on while you sniffle.
DO: Assess Your Symptoms
According to the Mayo Clinic's Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., the decision to exercise depends on how sick you really are. "Exercise is usually OK if your symptoms are all 'above the neck,'" he writes. "These signs and symptoms include those you may have with a common cold, such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat." While you might be good to go for a light run with a cold, Dr. Laskowski warns against working out at all jf your symptoms are "below the neck." Muscle aches, nausea, and chest congestion are just some signals that you need to give your body a rest in order to recuperate.
DON'T: Even Think of Exercising When You're Feverish
If you're running any kind of fever, overexertion can raise your body's temperature even higher—which can be extremely dangerous. Exercising can also compromise your body's immune system as it's strenuously working to fight any virus you may be dealing with. "Your body will be more susceptible to the bacteria and viruses already making you unwell, which increases the likelihood of your symptoms taking a turn for the worse," Robert Segal, MD, physician and founder of Medical Offices of Manhattan and co-founder of LabFinder.com, tells WellandGood.
DO: Go Easy On Yourself
If you are well enough to exercise, don't push yourself as hard as you would when you're feeling 100 percent. Because your immune system is already devoting energy to restoring your health, you don't want to compromise the work your body is doing by exerting too much energy on a workout. You also shouldn't expect to have the same energy you'd normally have when you're on your game, so it's possible to become fatigued, dizzy, or dehydrated if you're driving yourself like a drill sergeant.
DON'T: Go To the Gym
This is just a common courtesy to others who may not want to get your cold. The germs you may be sweating out on an elliptical could to be spread to the next person who uses it if you don't meticulously disinfect the area. And let's face it, if your head is full of cold medicine, you might not remember to be the hygienic and considerate person we know you truly are.
DO: Take a Walk or Light Run
If you're feeling up to it and the weather is mild enough, a little outdoor exercise to get the blood pumping can be a good thing. "If your sinuses are plugged up, walking will stimulate you to take deep breaths and can help open up those passages," Richard Besser M.D., explains to Health.com. If you're a regular runner, slow your roll to a jog and thank yourself later. "A light run followed by rest and a hot shower with steam may ease the congestion and make you feel a little better," Dr. Segal tells WellandGood.
DON'T: Do Strength Training
Because your energy is compromised with a cold, your body is weaker and more prone to injury if you're lifting your usual amount of weight. Avoid the potential for strains, not to mention spreading more germs at the gym. (Remember that DON'T?)
DO: Some Restorative Yoga
Gentle yoga or even mild stretching can be helpful in unsticking all that is sticky inside your upper-respiratory system. Downward Dog pose can improve circulation and open up nasal passages, while Bridge pose can help ease congestion in the chest. According to Shape, both Bridge and Seated Spinal Twistcan help boost the immune system by engaging organs central to its activity. (Check out those and other immunity-building poses here.) Skip the hardcore advanced classes—and try to avoid any inversions. "If your head is stuffed up or you're feeling tired, modify or skip inversions like Headstand and Handstand," writes YogaJournal's medical editor Tim McCall M.D.. "Even Shoulderstand can worsen nasal congestion and head pressure."
DO: Stop If You're Feeling Weak
Check in with yourself throughout your exercise process to ensure you're feeling better, not worse. "Let your body be your guide," suggests Dr. Laskowski on the Mayo Clinic's website. "If you feel miserable, take a break."
DONT: Worry If You Skip a Few Workout Days
Your health is the most important thing and without it, you can kiss your workout routine goodbye. So if you need to take a few days off to recuperate, you should do it guilt-free. Know you are doing what's best for your body and, as Dr. Laskowski notes, "a few days off from exercise when you're sick shouldn't affect your performance." So relax, get back under the covers, and let your body work that bug out of your system while you watch another episode of Golden Girls.