Sick? Flu? Should You Exercise Or Stay In Bed?

12 Mar

Starve a cold, feed a fever. Just go “sweat it out.” Yes, there are many urban legends on how to defeat the common cold, and even the flu. But what do the experts have to say about all this?

It depends.

Depending on what is going on with your specific condition, exercise can be a good thing… or a bad thing.

Exercise is a good thing at the right time. But sometimes your body needs a break and you have to learn to listen to it.

According to Keith Veselik, M.D., Director of Primary Care at Loyola University Health System, whether or not you should exercise can depend on your specific disease. When you’re sick, your body is fighting an illness and that takes energy. The added stress to the body can be dangerous for people with heart conditions. If you have diabetes, you may need to monitor your blood glucose levels more often. If you have a medical condition and you’re not sure if it’s safe to exercise, consult with your doctor.

Still, Veselik says a general rule is that it’s okay to exercise if your symptoms are “above the neck, such as a sore throat or runny nose.”

It is also important to understand that you should not exercise at the same level when you are sick as when you are healthy. A little exercise at the right time can help you feel better and fight sickness. Too much can break your body down and make things much worse.

The difference between exercise helping and hurting can be a very fine line. When in doubt, err on the “exercise light” side.

It may be dangerous to exercise if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath or chest congestion
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • If you feel dizzy or light-headed when you stand up.

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