Here’s How to Know if You’re Too Sick to Work Out

Not feeling so well? But really want to go to class anyway? When everyday sniffles morph into sneezing, sore throat and congestion, should you continue to exercise or take a break from working out?

Working out with a cold

Cold symptoms usually appear after a few days after being exposed to the airborne virus. At that time you may experience: A mild cough, runny nose, cough, fatigue, achy muscles, sneezing, watery eyes and nasal congestion.

Should you workout when sick?

If you have a common cold with above the neck symptoms, it is fine to exercise. Keep in mind that your immune system is compromised and reduce the time and intensity of your workout. Take a walk instead of running or try a Pilates class instead of boot camp. Working out may help you feel better by opening up your nasal passages.

Take a few days off if your symptoms are below the neck, i.e. chest congestion accompanied by a hacking cough, higher fever or an upset stomach. The break will not affect your performance, but be sure to check with your doctor if you have any residual symptoms after a week or so.

Again, if you have a mild cold it is fine to exercise as long as you listen to your body and don’t overdo it. When you are achy and feeling overheated, please take a break until you feel better. At the gym, make sure you wipe off any machines and equipment before and after you use it to help prevent spreading germs.

How to tell if you’re too sick to workout

We may be welcoming the cooler fall temperatures, but unfortunately along with the fresh air comes the dreaded cold and flu season. The fluctuating and unpredictable weather during this time of year can weaken our immune systems and make us more vulnerable to germs. No matter how hard we try to keep our hands sanitized and our bodies hydrated and healthy, we can all fall victim to a seasonal illness once in a while. And though we don’t want a cold to have control over our lives, sometimes we are just too sick to work out and need to take that impromptu rest day. Here are the signs for when it’s time to regrettably early-cancel class.

When your body is telling you ‘no’

In the early stages of a sickness you may not experience blatant, obvious signs that you are unwell for a workout. But our bodies are highly intelligent and they do not lie. If something feels off, and you suspect that you may be coming down with something, it’s best to stay home and rest. Staying extra well-hydrated during this time may even help prevent an oncoming cold or at least shorten its duration.

When you feel sluggish or look pale

Attempting to work out when you’re not at peak performance levels could make you more susceptible to injury, due to lower coordination abilities and decreased strength. It could intensify an illness too due to the stress that exercise naturally causes the body. Any type of extremely tiredness is usually indicative of something brewing in the body, and care should be taken to help your body in the long run.

The obvious physical, scientific facts

If you’ve experienced nausea, vomiting, a chest cough or body aches within the last 24 hours, working out should not be in day plan. This also applies to when you run a fever with a temperature over 100 F, mainly due to the risk of quicker dehydration. Even a low-intensity workout will be lost on an unwell body and also not serve your interests in recuperating. This all ties in with the “below the neck” rule, meaning that if you’re experiencing cold symptoms below the neck (like body aches, or stomach ailments) you should definitely take the precautionary measure of staying home. However, if your symptoms are above the neck (like stuffy or runny nose) then is probably okay to test the waters with a workout. Just remember to pay attention to your body and call it quits if your symptoms worsen.

Since there’s power in positive thinking, here are some tips for doing your best to avoid colds and flus this season in the first place:

Eat healthy, balanced meals

You can provide support to your immune system by eating meals high in nutrients and vitamin consistently, so that when faced with germs, the body is well positioned to defend itself.

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep

This is how the body resets. In the early stages of a cold, there is an opportunity to fight it off during a good night of sleep.

Relax and get some exercise

Managing stress is another way to help protect the body during cold and flu season. Regular exercise has been known to boost the immune system as well. Taking a yoga or meditation class regularly is a good way of accomplishing both.

Amy Hillock is a freelance writer and an executive producer at production company ASSEMBLY9 in New York City. She enjoys leading workplace wellness yoga in offices around Manhattan through YogaWithAim, and spending recklessly on travel plans, green juice and new Nikes. Follow her (mostly) healthy pursuits on Instagram and Twitter.