Should you exercise while sick?

Sometimes, it's just better to stay home. Photo via Flickr/foshydog
Sometimes, it’s just better to stay home.
Credit: foshydog/flickr

The question: Is it OK to exercise when I’m sick?

The human body is a miracle of integrated structure and function in so many ways. One of the more practical means of connecting function and feasibility is the idea that if something hurts, don’t do it. For example, if you sprain your ankle playing a sport, the swelling and pain that accompany the injury are your body’s way of telling you to rest and allow yourself to heal.

Managing the activities of daily life during an illness is not all that different. Because your body is generally working harder to fight off the infection, any additional stress on your system from exercise may, rather than boost your immune system, impair healing or prolong recovery time from the illness.

Here are some practical examples of how this works:

Strep Throat

This bacterial infection of the soft tissues at the back of your throat generally causes pain, fever, swollen glands and a general feeling of malaise. You may not have much of an appetite and may only be able to drink liquids due to the pain. Any sort of rigorous exercise — including running, weight lifting, spinning or team sports — may increase your overall fatigue, raise the temperature of an already feverish body and cause dehydration, since your ability to take fluids is compromised.

Sinusitis

This infection of your paranasal sinuses is often accompanied by headache, cough from post-nasal drip and difficulty breathing through your nose from congestion. The elevation in heart rate and blood pressure that normally occurs with any type of cardio exercise may make the throbbing in your head from a sinus infection worse, and because you can’t efficiently breathe through your nose may make it more challenging to keep from getting winded.

Bronchitis

Whether from a bacterial infection or, more commonly, a virus, the inflammation of your airways that results in a hacking dry cough may only be made worse by the work of breathing during exercise. You may end up with wheezing and chest congestion due to cold outdoor air being raked over your already inflamed bronchial tubes, and a cough that is worse than ever.

Colds

Do you really want to be “that person” at the gym who is coughing, sneezing and wiping mucus all over the equipment, potentially infecting everyone else?

On the whole, if your illness impairs your daily activities (work, sleep, eating) you probably shouldn’t exercise. Don’t be afraid to take a few sick days off from your workout. The benefit of resting to your general health is likely more useful than any short- or long-term gains to be had from exercising while ill.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.