What Should You Really Avoid When You’re Sick?

Running on the Beach

You might already know what you’re capable of handling when you have a head cold, but what should you not do? You know the feeling. You wake up, knowing you have a 5 am workout calling your name. Yet you can tell that the headache bugging you last night has turned into a full-blown cold. A light jog, walk, or yoga might actually help—as long as you take it easy.

Now, here’s what you should not do when you’re battling a cold:

Endurance workout. If you’re training for a marathon or triathlon, it’s difficult to back off, especially when your progress has been growing by leaps and bounds. But according to Hulse, “in general, regular exercise stimulates the immune system and helps keep us healthy. But too much regular exercise at a high intensity can have the opposite effect.” Since heavy endurance exercise can strain your immune system, it’s best to back off when you’re sick.

Hit the gym. Avoid gym machines when you’re sick. Not only do you want to avoid exposing yourself to more germs, you might also want to avoid passing on your sickness to other gym patrons. According to Richard Besser, M.D., chief health and medical editor at ABC News, “if your workout involves going to the gym and being in close contact with other people, you need to ask yourself if you’d want someone else with your symptoms doing the same thing. If you would not like the person next to you on the treadmill or who finishes before you on the elliptical to be sneezing and coughing and wiping their nose, then do your fellow gym mates a favor and do a lighter workout at home, instead.”

Lift weights. According to Besser, your strength will diminish when you have a cold, which means your risk of injury goes up—especially if you continue to lift heavy equipment. Your sinus pressure and headache can also get worse due to muscle strain, he adds. If you are going to do a weight lifting session anyway, stay at home to avoid spreading your sickness—and stick to light dumbbells.

Swim. This one is actually a matter of personal preference. If you find that swimming opens up your nasal passageways and feels refreshing when you’re sick, Hulse suggests sticking to your normal routine. Light cardio can help to boost your energy and open airways, so biking might also work for you. Biking can dry out your nasal passageways while making your sore throat or runny nose worse, so keep that in mind before heading out for a long ride.

Team sports. If your team practice is optional, it’s best to skip when you’re feeling under the weather. It’s too easy to spread illness around when you’re participating in a sport that requires constant physical contact. According to Besser, “if you wipe your nose and then you pass the ball, you’ve just passed those germs on, as well.”

Work out in the cold. Surprisingly, it isn’t the cold air or your wet, sweaty hair that is the problem. Cold and dry air actually irritates airways—which can bring on symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, or even asthma.

There’s one more thing you should consider: Allergies. A lot of allergy symptoms may seem like a cold—so if you’re getting them around the same time every year, it might be time to visit an allergy doctor to get tested. Whether you’re allergic to outdoor pollen or indoor dust and mold, you might need an antihistamine to help you deal.


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

Image Credit: Running on the Beach by SPC CHEESE, used under a creative commons license.

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This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.