It is inevitable that at some point during your journey to better fitness you will acquire a cold or flu virus. You will then be faced with the common question "Should I exercise while I am sick?". According to the American College of Sport's Medicine's publication ACSM Current Comment: Exercise and the Common Cold
, a resource available to the general public through their website www.acsm.org
, it is typically accepted that when symptoms are located at the neck and above it is safe to engage in mild to moderate physical activity. Symptoms in this category tend to be associated with the "common cold" and include mild scratchy/sore throat, stuffy nose and/or head, but no fever or chest congestion
. It is also noted in the ACSM Current Comment: Exercise and the Common Cold
publication that exercise during a mild cold may be beneficial. On the other hand, if you are experiencing a fever, chills, achy joints, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, chest congestion (such as with the "flu"), or severe symptoms that occur at the neck and above, then exercise should be discontinued until symptoms subside. It should be noted that this recommendation may not hold true in all circumstances. Contact your physician when in doubt and use common sense.
There are a few guidelines that you should follow if it has been determined it is safe for you to exercise. First, it is a good idea to exercise at a lower intensity level or for a shorter duration during the acute stages of the illness. According to the ACSM Current Comment: Exercise and the Common Cold, resumption to a more intensive training regimen can occur a few days after symptoms have subsided. Second, adequate amounts of fluids should be consumed in order to avoid dehydration from exercise which can be compounded by the illness.
If your illness was severe enough to keep you from engaging in physical activity, there are a few tips to keep in mind when reestablishing your fitness routine. First, recognize that you may need to re-examine your fitness goals and modify your approach accordingly (refer to my postings "Getting into Action: Parts One and Two"). Second, resumption of activity should be gradual, especially if you had to discontinue exercise for more than a week. You can anticipate that it will take about 2-4 weeks to achieve your pre-illness training level. However, if you only had to miss a few days, then you should be able to resume your pre-illness training level in a shorter period of time. Do not get discouraged if it takes longer than expected to reach your pre-illness training level. Remember, the achievement of physical fitness is a lifelong journey that will have setbacks, but with patience and perseverance, it is something that is attainable.
ACSM Current Comment: Exercise and the Common Cold
ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. May/June 2006 p. 5. "Fitness Focus Copy-and-Share Injuries/Illness and Fitness"; D.L. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Labels: "flu", ACSM, ACSM Current Comment, common cold, exercise, illness