It's a question doctors are asked frequently: "I feel sick; should I stay away from the gym?" The short answer is, not necessarily. Early Show Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay offers some rules of thumb to help you decide.
The first thing you want to do is a "neck check."
"Above the neck" symptoms
If you have symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, or a sore throat, it's probably okay to go ahead and do a moderate workout.
A study of college kids with such symptoms showed that they were able to work out just as well with a cold as without. Measurements such as heart rate, blood pressure, pulse rate and lung function were no different when they had a cold than when they didn't.
But these were pretty healthy young adults, so be careful not to overdo it.
"Below the neck" symptoms
If you have symptoms like extreme tiredness, muscle or body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, swollen glands or a hacking cough, you definitely don't want to exercise.
These symptoms can be a sign of a more serious illness, and if you work out you run the risk of making that illness worse.
Medication: If you're taking antibiotics, ask your doctor if exercising is okay, but you need to use common sense, too.
If you are taking medication that makes you drowsy you should not work out on motorized treadmills or weightlifting machines.
Fever: If you're running a fever you should not exercise. A fever means your body is fighting an infection and you need to rest. Working out could make things worse.
Moderate exercise has been shown to help white blood cells circulate more effectively and fight off infections better. But over-training or working out too hard can initially suppress the immune system and help bacteria or a virus take hold.
Over Training: You could put yourself at risk of getting sick if you exercise too much, especially at the gym in the wintertime.
We get a lot of germs through direct contact with people, so working out in an overcrowded gym with poor ventilation can definitely make it easier for you to catch a cold or give your cold to others.
On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that for people with long-term illness like cancer or for those who are bed-ridden or recovering from surgery, a little regular moderate exercise can help in a lot of ways.
Exercise can help reduce fatigue, improve endurance, increase muscle strength, and reduce stress and depression.
But with any serious long-term illness you should have a conversation with your doctor about what kind of work out is right for you.
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