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Is it OK to exercise when I’m sick? 

Research on this subject is not conclusive. However, there is no doubt that illness can impede a person’s ability to exercise with the same intensity they are accustomed to. In addition, exercising when sick can lead to “Post-viral Fatigue Syndrome.” Symptoms of this condition include weakness, inability to train hard, easy fatigability, frequent infections, and depression.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) issued the following guidelines for exercising during an illness:

• If one has common cold symptoms, (runny nose and/or sore throat without a fever), intense exercise training may be safely resumed a few days after the resolution in symptoms.

• When sick with a common cold, mild to moderate intensity exercise (e.g. walking) does not appear to be harmful.

•With symptoms of fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, and swollen lymph glands, 2 to 4 weeks should probably be allowed before resumption of intense training.

In general, if the symptoms are from the neck up, moderate exercise is probably acceptable and some researchers would even argue beneficial. Bed rest and a gradual progression to normal training are recommended when the illness is systemic. If in doubt as to the type of infectious illness, consult a physician.

Remember, if you exercise in a public area while you have a cold, be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizers before using communal equipment and wipe down exercise equipment with a cleaner after use to decrease the risk of spreading infectious germs.

To find out more about exercising through an illness or to schedule an appointment with an internal medicine physician at East Jefferson General Hospital, contact HealthFinder at (504) 456-5000 or visit


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