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Can you exercise when sick?

Posted by Elizabeth Comeau  January 30, 2013 07:00 AM

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RyanHealy100.jpgRyan Healy is a personal trainer for the Lynch/van Otterloo (LVO) YMCA in Marblehead. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, and earned her BS in Exercise Sports Science from Elon University. Find more posts by her in conjunction with the LVO YMCA at She can be reached at

Remember; please consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Should you workout when you’re sick? That’s a tough question many people ask, especially this time of year. The answer is, like many things in life, it depends. It’s best to check with your doctor first, however, it’s generally OK to go by the “neck rule”.
If your symptoms are below the neck, including a persistent cough, chest congestion, muscle aches, chills, stomach distress, or a fever; skip your workout and allow your body the rest it needs to fight off the illness. Attempting exercise could prolong your sickness and make you feel even worse.

If your symptoms are from the neck and above, such as; runny nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat, or a headache, it’s OK to exercise. A moderate or low intensity is best during these situations, so try to refrain from taxing workouts that leave you exhausted. Research from Appalachian State University even shows that moderate exercise during a bout with the cold can help boost your immune system and cut the number of days you’re sick by 25-50%. It can also help you maintain a regular exercise routine, as opposed to skipping workouts altogether, then finding it difficult to begin again once feeling better.

For those that want to be proactive; regular physical activity, healthy foods, stress relief, and plenty of rest will help you fight off illness this winter!

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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