Janet Marshall is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Living section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter. She thinks most things are fine in moderation.
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Should you exercise when you’re sick?
If you’re sniffling and achy and feel like you’re coming down with a cold, should you exercise?
“I would say it’s always beneficial to exercise, but I usually tell people to exercise at half-speed/half-intensity while feeling ill,” said Dr. Christopher Lillis, an internist with Chancellor Internal Medicine and a Healthy Living columnist.
I asked Lillis for his opinion because we’re coming up on cold season, and I’ve had a few sniffles myself this week. And different doctors seem to give slightly different advice about whether to lace up your running shoes or park yourself on the couch when you’re feeling under the weather.
That may be because, as Lillis said, there’s no solid science dictating precisely what’s wisest when you’re sick.
“I personally think taking a short walk gets the blood flowing and aids healing,” Lillis said.
Exercise certainly can boost the immune system; click here to read more about that. And on a personal level, the cold that seemed to be coming on hard for me Monday has lingered but not gotten worse — and I walked Monday and did yoga Tuesday.
After talking to Lillis and reading up on exercising and sickness, it seems to me you should generally apply the same rules-of-thumb to exercise that schools insist on when kids are sick: No school (or exercise) for at least 24 hours after vomiting, and no school (or exercise) when you’re running a fever.
Not exercising after vomiting is just common sense. Not only will you feel bad and run the risk of being dehydrated if you work out after throwing up, but if you exercise at a gym or with a buddy, you might expose them to whatever you’ve got.
With a fever, if it’s on the low side, it’s probably OK to exercise “so long as you are trying doubly hard to hydrate,” Lillis said. If your temperature is over 101, lay low and rest.
For more advice and commentary on whether to exercise when you’re feeling ill, click here.
For information about when to call in sick instead of going to work, click here.
For details about when children should stay home from school, click here.