You’re ill. Should you exercise?

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: March 10th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For many of us, it’s hard to force ourselves to exercise under the best of conditions. But to a true fitness buff, it’s a bummer to miss a daily workout due to illness. Some may even push themselves to exercise even when they’re feeling under the weather. The question is, is this safe?

There hasn’t been a lot of research on the subject, which means most fitness enthusiasts have made up their own rules. Some take a day or two off. Some muscle through. Others split the difference, exercising only if they have a head cold but drawing the line at fever or body aches.

Some people even claim exercise helps them heal faster by pumping more blood through the veins. And a couple studies seem to bolster that theory.

In one study, a group of forty-five people agreed to be infected with a rhinovirus, while ten people served as a control group. When they ran on treadmills, researchers could find no difference in the lung capacity of the different groups.

In a second study, thirty-four people were infected with colds. Sixteen were forced to exercise while the remainder rested. Both groups recovered at the same rate, but the exercisers said they felt better after jogging on the treadmill.

The jury is still out. Hitting the treadmill might not free you from sniffles, but it could make you feel a little better. And better yet, larger studies show exercise could keep you from catching that cold in the first place.