Friday, February 20, 2009

At the Gym: To Sneeze or Not to Sneeze

While we are still in the middle of cold and flu season, one of the main questions I'm asked is: Should I work out even if I am sick?

The answer is no...and yes. It depends on what kind of sick you are.

General rule of thumb: Listen to your body. If you are sick, your body is telling you that something is wrong.

You should definitely skip your workout if you have a fever. It puts too much stress on your heart, which is already beating faster because of your higher body temperature. If you have chest congestion and shortness of breath, you should also forgo the gym for a day or two. And this may be common sense...but if you exercise with a stomach ache, you will feel worse after.

In these situations, working out may prolong the illness. Plus, some viruses are capable to actually damage the muscles of your heart. There are a lot of myths about "sweating out" germs and toxins. While low intensity exercise may increase endorphins, you can also wear down your immune system. Be smart. Don't count on your endorphins to heal you.

However, if you just have the sniffles or milder symptoms of a cold, moderate exercise should be okay. Just don't push yourself to do your normal routine. Take it easy until you begin to feel better. Gradually increase your workout as your body heals. If you jump right back in at 100% the second you start to feel better, you're likely to relapse. Give your body time to recuperate.

One more thing to keep in mind: A little courtesy never hurt anyone. You may want to skip the gym is to keep from spreading the germs to everyone else. You can always take a walk outside or do a video at home until you are back to normal health.

If you do decide to head to the gym for a low intensity workout, just be considerate. Wipe down machines, wash your hands, etc.

So there you have it. Just be smart! (And if you're sick, feel better!)

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