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Should you exercise when sick?
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Nothing derails exercise plans much more than getting sick. One second, you are looking forward to going to your fitness class or going for that long run, and the next, you find yourself barely having the energy to get out of bed.
I know this feeling all too well, because I was recently hit hard by a bug brought to our house courtesy of our 4-year-old daughter.
I had body aches, chills, fever — the works. It was awful, and I found myself wallowing in my misfortune. But as I lay in bed, I found myself debating whether to exercise or not.
Will exercise make me feel better or make me feel worse?
As I slowly tried to pull myself out of bed, only to be yanked back down by my sickness, my answer was clear: There would be no exercising today. Rest was more important.
There are times, however, when exercising while sick is just fine for me. I've heard health professionals cite the "neck rule." Anything above the neck (cold, cough, sore throat) is fine to exercise through. Anything below the neck (stomach problems, body aches) is best to rest.
Why the rule?
In an article on, fitness expert Chris Freytag writes that when suffering from congestion or low energy, exercise often helps you feel better.
"A brisk walk can unclog your sinuses better than an afternoon on the couch," she writes. "And gentle exercise will rev up your circulation, to counteract that sluggish, rundown feeling."
Not to mention, some fresh air and good old vitamin D from the sun may be just what the doctor ordered.
Freytag adds: "But this is definitely a personal decision. You're the best judge of how you feel and what your body can handle when you're sick.
"However, if you have any symptoms below the neck, such as body aches, chills, stomach problems or diarrhea, then I advise you to take it easy until you're feeling better. And if you're running a fever, no matter where your symptoms are, put off exercising until your temperature returns to normal."
But what types of exercises are good when you have a cold? Should you stay with your marathon training schedule, running that 20-miler you planned? Should you go to your weekly Zumba class? To both, the answer is no.
While exercise is good, excessive exercise can be counterproductive. Further, as much as you may want to dance with all your friends at your Zumba class, you wouldn’t want to risk getting any of your fellow classmates sick.
When feeling under the weather, a brisk walk, a light jog or yoga are all great forms of exercise that may just help you feel better.
Most importantly, listen to your body. You know when you’ve overdone it. A few days of light exercise, or even none at all, will not make a difference in your overall fitness or training schedule.
And once you are back to feeling better, make sure to resume right where you left off. After all, a healthy and fit body gives you the best fighting chance against the next illness that may come your way.
Arianne Brown is a mother of six who loves running beautiful trails. For more articles by her, "like" her Facebook page by searching "A mother's Write" or visit her blogs, or