Should I still exercise when I have a cold?

You’re feeling under the weather – so should you stay in bed or push on with your fitness routine?

Whether you’re a professional athlete or a weekend jogger, a virus or illness can derail your best-laid exercise plans.

So if you’re sick, should you push through the pain or let your body rest?

We ask the experts for their top tips.

It depends on where the illness lies

GP and sports doctor Gill Cowen says if the illness is above the neck – such as a head cold – it is generally OK to carry on with exercise.

“If it’s from the neck up and the person feels OK, then it’s OK to continue – even at full intensity if they feel OK after a warm-up,” says Dr Cowen, of SportsMed Murdoch.

Dr Joanne Caldwell, of the Department of Physiology at Monash University, says if a cold progresses to a chest infection, it is time to rest.

“If you can’t get air in to your lungs then that is probably a good sign that you are too sick. If we can’t get enough oxygen in, our bodies can’t function properly,” she says.

Dr Cowen says it’s also better to rest up if you have a fever.

“If there is a fever, then the body can’t regulate fluids and will be much quicker to fatigue, so that’s when we really need to rest,” she says.

“Exercise really shouldn’t resume again until the symptoms have eased.”

Listen to your body

Dr Michelle Hall, of the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sport Medicine at University of Melbourne, says ultimately you are the best person to judge whether to rest or keep on moving.

“There is no shame to say you know what, today is not for me,” Dr Hall says.

“You’re not going to lose your fitness straight away, even if you’re sick for a week.

“If you’re really not feeling 100 per cent, it is probably best to have a rest and don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or two.”

Ease back into it

When recovering from a bug, Dr Hall says to ease back into things.

“If you’re feeling better and can get outside and go for a walk with a friend, then that’s an excuse to have a social interaction and get some exercise in,” she says.

Get to a park – if you can get somewhere nice to exercise and really find something that you enjoy doing yourself, that helps.

Dr Cowen says exercising can also help boost the immune system – but she also stresses the importance of having a flu shot.

Written by Sally Heppleston.