Working out is a healthy activity that helps to boost your immune system, but if you are ill, listen to your body. Take it slow when getting back to the gym after being sick. If you return to working out too soon or do not stop when you are sick, you can relapse or intensify the symptoms.
There is no set amount of time you must wait before working out after being sick. When you feel better and your symptoms recede, start slow and pay attention to your body as you exercise.
Rest and Recover
In general, you want to avoid working out when ill. Resting and taking care of yourself will help your body fight the illness so you feel better faster. If your symptoms are all above the neck, such as a runny nose or a mild sore throat, it is generally safe to continue exercising at a lower intensity.
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However, if you have additional symptoms, such as a fever, muscle aches or a bad cough, it is best to stay home and rest. Pushing through sickness may delay your recovery and if you workout at a gym or public place, you are risking spreading the infection to others.
So when can you return to working out after a cold or flu? This greatly depends on how you are feeling. People respond differently to illness, but in general, once you no longer have a fever and your other symptoms are gone, you can start exercising again. The University of Colorado notes that recovery from some illnesses can take 10 days or longer, so be patient with yourself.
In many cases, you can treat a cold or minor illness at home without seeing a doctor. However, the University of Rochester's University Health Service suggests that you seek medical attention right away if you experience:
- A fever that lasts for more than two days and is more than 101 degrees.
- Shortness of breath or severe chest pain.
- Coughing with brown or green sputum or mucus.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- A sore throat that lasts more than two weeks
Exercise After Being Sick
Depending on the severity of the illness and how long you were resting, you may feel slightly weak. Do not attempt to jump right back into your exercise program where you left off. Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center recommends starting at 50 percent of your normal intensity level and duration when returning to exercise after being sick.
Slowly increase the duration and intensity of your workouts as you continue to feel better. Pay close attention to your weight and hydration level as you may have been dehydrated while you were sick. If you lost weight while you were sick, make sure you have regained the weight before doing high-intensity exercise.
It is generally OK to work out while taking over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatories, antihistamines and nasal sprays and these may help you feel better as you get back to your workout. Make sure you stay hydrated and stop exercising if more severe symptoms start to return.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.