You’ve been hitting your fitness goals with your new exercise routine, rarely missing a day. Then all of a sudden, a winter cold hits and you are sidelined for days. So you may ask yourself: When can I go back to exercising after being sick? Is it true that I can sweat out a cold?
According to Megan Spurling, manager of Sharp’s employee wellness program, Sharp Best Health, “Mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a typical cold and no fever.”
As far as “sweating out a cold,” there is no definitive research suggesting that sweating lessens the duration of being sick, Spurling says. If you have a cold and are generally well-hydrated, moderate exercise could help break up congestion. However, rest, hydration and time remain the keys to lessening the length and intensity of a cold, she adds.
“If your symptoms are above the neck, including runny nose, nasal congestion and sneezing, then it’s OK to exercise — although it’s a good idea to lower your intensity and duration,” explains Spurling. “If your symptoms are below the neck, such as chest congestion, hacking cough or an upset stomach, exercise is not recommended.” Also, you shouldn’t exercise if you have a fever, widespread muscle ache or fatigue, she adds.
Tips for returning back to exercise:
- Be flexible about length and intensity. If you begin to exercise and feel miserable, take a break. A few days off from exercise won’t affect your training. In fact, the extra time off might help you come back stronger.
- Gradually resume your pre-cold routine as you begin to feel better. If you had something more serious than the common cold, more caution should be taken. The rule of thumb is to resume exercise when you are fully recovered — a minimum of one week from a significant viral or bacterial infection, especially if it included a fever.
- Check with your doctor if you’re unsure about your exercise regimen post-illness.
“If you begin your exercise routine too soon, you may run the risk of weakening your immune system or hurting yourself during the workout,” says Spurling. “There’s also evidence that a recent illness can leave you at a higher risk of heat illness, even in colder weather.”
“Exercising should always be something that improves your health and should not put you in jeopardy for further illness,” she adds. “At the end of the day, it’s best to be kind to yourself and listen to your body when you’re feeling under the weather.”