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I ‘m laying on the sofa as I am typing this post, aches and pains, a sore throat and a lost will to live…. Ok, that is an exaggeration, my will to live is perfectly in tact. However I am feeling a little depressed because illness has struck and I won’t be able to do my run for the day, a run that I was really looking forward to. I was hoping for a steady paced 8 miles along the Mersey river front.

The question about being able to exercise or keep to a training routine whilst feeling unwell is one that comes up quite often so I thought I would take a look at what some other sources are saying about it and what I think myself.

Should you run whilst sick? What others say

WebMD, a huge trusted online resource has an article on exercise and the common cold. They say:

Because exercise may help to boost immune function, it’s usually safe to exercise with a cold.

Still, if you exercise with a cold, it’s important to listen to your body. Sometimes cold medications such as decongestants can increase your heart rate. In addition, your heart rate is increased with exercise. The combination of exercise and decongestants can cause your heart to pump very hard. You may become short of breath and have difficulty breathing.

If you have asthma and a cold, make sure you talk with your doctor before you exercise. If your asthma symptoms are worse with a cold, you’ll need to use caution. Exercising with a cold and asthma may cause increased respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may require you to use more asthma medications to open your airways. Overuse of asthma drugs can also cause your heart rate to increase.

If you have a fever with a cold, exercise may stress your body even more. That’s why it’s important to wait a few days to get back to your regular exercise regimen. Working out too hard with a cold could stress your body, causing you to feel worse. This additional stress may hinder your recovery.

Source: Exercise and The Common Cold.

Prevention.com addresses the issue of exercising whilst sick and say:

The rule I like to use is called the “neck check.” You can exercise while sick if your symptoms are all above the neck, like a runny nose or a sore throat. Of course you should always listen to your body and take the intensity of your workout down a bit if your regular pace feels too strenuous.

Source: Should I Exercise While Sick?

The Mayo Clinic gives some general guidelines:

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  • Exercise is usually OK if your signs and symptoms are all “above the neck” — symptoms you may have with a common cold, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat. Consider reducing the intensity and length of your workout, though, or you may feel worse. Instead of going for a run, take a walk, for example.
  • Don’t exercise if your signs and symptoms are “below the neck” — such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach.
  • Don’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.

Source: Is it OK to exercise if I have a cold?

And lastly MedicineNet has an old article that gives a different view saying that:

This year, if a cold or the flu tries to interrupt your quality time at the gym, keep this in mind: you are better off taking a break instead of breaking a sweat.

Forget about what you might have heard about trying to perspire your way back to better health. That’s not the way your immune system fights off sickness, says Liz Applegate, PhD, a fitness and nutrition expert on the faculty of the Nutrition Department at the University of California, Davis.

Your body can’t “sweat out” toxins and germs during exercise. That’s a job for the immune system, she says, which uses its complex network of specialized cells and components to engulf, detoxify, and disassemble bad guys.

Source: Exercise Restraint When Sick

Running whilst sick, My Thoughts

It seems there is a fairly general view that it is safe and ok to exercise whilst sick above the neck and in low level sickness exercise may actually benefit and help get the body working in the right way.

The thing is though I have tried exercising whilst sick and I often feel awful and don’t get a workout done that I think is helping my physical condition improve. I am of the view that the body needs it’s energy for healing and if you run or generally exercise on a regular basis I can’t see what 3-6 days out will do to you overall.

So, i’ll be looking forward to my next run when I am healthy again, in the meantime I will eat healthily (ok maybe a little comforting chocolate) and put my energy towards shedding this damn sickness although I am readying myself for a little 10-15minute walk to get some fresh air.

So now it’s over to you. Do you exercise and thing you should exercise whilst sick? Do you think exercising whilst sick will prolong illness? Do you have anything else to add?

Image Credit: Jesse Therrien

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When I can be I am a regular runner but I am also nothing special and certainly no elite, so in that respect I am regular too. However I do love talking about running and related things and I do have a lot of experience, over 15 years now.

2 Responses to “Should You Go Running Whilst Sick?” Subscribe

  1. ninjaTRIATHLETEmonkey November 16, 2011 at 17:02 #

    Interesting article. I like to have this discussion with others because there are potentially merits to both sides. I did however read an interesting article a few months ago about Kenyan runners training routines. Apparently if they feel a little ill or even a bit too soar they don’t train. The logic being they don’t have the medical facilities we do and hence can’t risk worse illness or injury or they can’t train in the future. If you sit and think about it, it does sort of make sense since injury is our bodies way of telling us something is wrong, so we should listen to it. And its not as if they are renowned for being slack when it comes to training.

    • Forest November 16, 2011 at 17:08 #

      That is an interesting take. When you are not training for a professional event I guess it’s just best to listen. I have not managed torun in 1.5 weeks due to what I think is a hairline fracture on my big toe. It’s nearly there but I think I am going to rest until the end of the week and then get back in slowly.

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