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Should I 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.

• Mild to moderate- intensity exercise (e.g. walking) when sick with a common cold 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, individuals should consult a physician.

To find out more about exercising through an illness, contact the Sports Medicine Navigator at East Jefferson General Hospital at (504) 338-9792 or visit


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