Should you exercise when you are sick?

FIT Staff
Sep 26, 2013

The cold weather brings with it illness, and this increases due to being in close quarters more often.

People who are sick still may want to continue activity or participate in sports.

The general consensus guideline has been that if symptoms are above the neck you may engage in activity at a lower intensity level.

You should not exercise with a fever, symptoms below the neck or continue exercise if symptoms worsen with activity.

This is not always an option in competitive sports.

In competitive sports, there are more variables, such as getting teammates sick and venue.

Some athletes will opt out of practice to save energy and exposure to teammates while participating in games only.

Outside activities may be more challenging to compete in with illness due to temperature and humidity. 

The recreational athlete or person looking to exercise may want to take a break to recover.

From a general stand point, rest will allow you to recover sooner and avoid injury due to increased fatigue.

Another factor is breathing. Deep belly or diaphragm breathing is normal and desired, but when you have congested nasal passages your breathing can alter to chest breathing.

Chest breathing is undesired and can lead to a host of overuse injuries in the upper extremities. This can happen because muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint will be utilized to raise the rib cage to instigate chest breathing.

With a stuffed nose, you may use neck muscles to raise the ribcage; this makes the core less stable and can misalign the shoulder complex.

The problem is that this pattern can stay long after the illness, which will lead to overuse injuries. Missing one or two workouts might help save you missing many workouts down the road.