Should You Exercise While Sick?

    02 September, 2019

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

    Exercise helps to keep us in good health. Doctors at the American Heart Association suggest getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week.

    An older couple couple jogging in the park. (Getty Images)
    An older couple couple jogging in the park. (Getty Images)

    Many people have an exercise routine. They exercise for a few minutes every day or every other day. So, getting those 150 minutes is easier.

    But what about those times when you are sick? If you do not feel well, should you keep following your exercise routine? Will physical activity help you to feel better more quickly or will it delay the healing process?

    Health experts answer these and other questions on the Mayo Clinic website. The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit medical center in the United States.

    Edward R. Laskowski is a doctor at the clinic. He notes that "mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a common cold."

    Dr. Laskowski and other experts have a general rule of thumb about exercising when you are sick. It is usually fine to exercise, he explains, if your symptoms are all "above the neck." These signs may include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or a minor sore throat.

    In fact, Laskowski adds that exercise may make you feel better by "opening your nasal passages." This may temporarily reduce congestion and help you to breathe more easily.

    The American health website WebMD offers similar advice.

    Geralyn Coopersmith is a physical fitness trainer who has written several books on exercise and nutrition. Coopersmith told WebMD: "The general rule is that if it is just a little sniffle and you take some medications and don't feel so sick, it's OK to work out."

    However, both Coopersmith and Dr. Laskowski suggest taking a break from exercising if signs of your illness appear "below the neck." Be on guard for symptoms such as chest congestion, extreme cough or pain in the stomach.

    But there are other symptoms that can tell you to avoid exercise. They include:

    • a higher than normal body temperature,
    • a sense of feeling extremely tired, also known as fatigue, and
    • widespread muscle pain.

    Coopersmith, the WebMD expert, adds that if you feel tightness in the chest, "it is not advisable to be working out."

    Both she and Dr. Laskowski suggest listening to your body. If you feel really badly, take a break and let your body rest.

    If you don't feel too badly, these experts both suggest cutting back on the intensity of your exercise routine. For example, if you usually run, take a quick walk instead.

    Experts at the Mayo Clinic add that a "few days off from exercise when you are sick shouldn't affect your performance."

    You can return to your usual intensity when you feel better. However, Dr. Laskowski warns that exercising when you have more than a common cold, could lead to "more-serious injury or illness."

    And that's the Health & Lifestyle Report.

    I'm Anna Matteo.

    Anna Matteo wrote this for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    mildadj. not extreme or severe

    rule of thumb idiom a broadly accurate guide or principle, based on experience or practice rather than theory

    symptom n. a change in the body or mind which indicates that a disease is present

    nasal congestion n. Nasal congestion is the blockage of the nasal passages usually due to membranes lining the nose becoming swollen from inflamed blood vessels.

    fitness trainer n. a person who works with a client to plan a course of exercise

    sniffle v. to repeatedly take air into your nose in short breaths that are loud enough to be heard because you are sick or have been crying

    tightness adj. difficult breathing