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Have a Cold or Flu? To Exercise or Not...
By David Shaw for It's Your Health


You've got a slight cough, your throat is sore, your nose is running and you feel just the tiniest muscle ache. Should you work out? Will you recover faster if you do?

Many people believe that exercising will actually boost their immune system and help them recover more quickly. But most doctors disagree. Evidence is strong that if you are feeling fatigued, feverish or really stuffy, working out will probably make you feel worse.

According to some physicians, there is a fairly simple way to decide if you should take it easy or not and it's called the neck up or neck down rule.

If your symptoms are from the neck up, meaning you have sniffles, a runny nose, headache and perhaps a very mild cough, it's probably OK to perform a mild workout. The key is to make sure you have no difficulty breathing during or after a workout. Definitely cut back, though, especially if you're a type A at the gym. Experts agree that going at one third your normal pace might be the best way to proceed and if you feel worse a few hours later - give yourself a few days rest.

If you're symptoms are primarily neck down, that is you've got a deep chest cough or a fever, you should skip working out altogether until you feel much better. Chest pain means you most likely have inflamed tissue in the lungs and working out will cause an even worse inflammation. Sleep and rest are the better choice.

Fitness professionals note that many people think they feel better after a workout, but agree that it's the endorphins kicking in. Chances are these same folks will feel worse a few hours later. The body knows what's best for you - it's a matter of listening closely. Professional athletes know that skipping a workout for the time it takes to recover from illness will has no adverse affect and that the body will quickly renew itself once they get back on their program.

Finally, all those healthy people at the gym will appreciate it if you stay away until you absolutely know you are not contagious.

The High Cost of the Common Cold

Every time a person in the United States has a cold, it costs roughly $80 in direct and indirect expense, according to an article in the Feb. 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The overall cost of the common cold is $40 billion annually. These costs include lost days of work, over-the-counter treatments, and prescriptions and especially visits to the doctor.

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