Illness, Injury Should Slow (or Stop) Your Exercise Routine

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Do you love to exercise or do you feel you must exercise on a regular basis? What if you’re sick or injured? During these times, you may want to push yourself to exercise, but will it make you feel better? Or could you cause yourself further harm? It depends.


    Let’s start off with being ill. If you don’t have a fever, experts say you can normally can do mild to moderate exercise; however, avoid strenuous exercise at this point. Also, you’re pretty much cleared to exercise if your symptoms are limited to your head and neck area, such as having a minor sore throat, a headache, nasal congestion or sneezing.

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    Other types of illness should send you to the couch or bed instead of the elliptical trainer. For instance, if you have a congested chest, a hacking cough, an upset stomach or diarrhea, you should skip your workout until you are better.  (Other people at the gym probably will be thankful that you’re not exercising at this point because they may be worried you’re contagious.)


    You also should avoid exercise if you have a fever or feel fatigued or have muscle aches that are a symptom of being ill. And if you’re tired or haven’t gotten enough sleep, you should limit the duration and/or intensity of your exercise.


    Now let’s talk about injury.  If you experience pain during a workout, it’s important not to ignore this feeling since it’s telling you that something’s going on.  Furthermore, you don’t want to cause any lasting damage to your body.


    So what about the next day? There are different types of bodily discomfort to consider. For instance, if you’re experiencing soreness or stiffness, you may be either exercising too much, too hard or too often without recovery. You also may be dehydrated during the exercise session or it may be a sign that you’re developing an illness.  It’s best to give your body a break during this time; if you need to do something, try a nice walk out in your neighborhood. The good news is that soreness normally only lasts for 1-2 day before diminishing.


    And what if you’ve been injured? It’s important to allow the injury to heal. Realize that injuries can linger – and what you choose to do physically can cause injuries to get worse or better. Listen to your body instead of your head when deciding to go back to exercising. Also, realize that you may experience emotions such as tension, depression, anger, frustration and boredom after an injury, even if you only have to take a short break from your exercise routine.


    So how can you get back into the swing of things if you’ve suffered an injury? You might start by hiring a trainer who can design a custom workout to keep you active but to also let your injury heal.  For instance, a trainer told the American Council on Exercise that she was designing a workout for a person who had just gone through hip surgery. In doing so, she focused on developing the client’s upper body and also added bodyweight exercises to promote healing.


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    So what if you can’t afford to hire a trainer? You can take a page out of their exercise book and consider trying some alternative exercises. Either focus on a different muscle group or – depending on the injury – look at another way to exercise that area of the body or develop an exercise modification. For instance, if you’re struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome, realize that this pain can flare up even more if you’re doing exercises such as push-ups or if you’re playing sports such as tennis that require you to really bend your wrist at extreme angles. Instead, do exercises that allow you to maintain a straight wrist, such as using a weight machine.


    Injuries and illness can through your exercise regimen off kilter. During these times, learn to listen to what your body is telling you (instead of your brain) so you can get back to exercising without compromising your health.


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Freytag, C. (2011). Should I exercise while sick? Prevention.


    James-Enger, K. (ND). Buzz-killed: Helping clients cope with injuries. The American Council on Exercise.


    Laskowski, E. R. (2014). Is it OK to exercise if I have a cold? Mayo Clinic.


    Melone, L. (2012). How to exercise when you’re hurting. Prevention.


    Tang Center at University of California, Berkley. (2014). Exercise: Injury prevention & self-care.

Published On: April 23, 2014

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