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Germs vs. Guilt: When the Germs Should Win

Filed Under: Men's Health at 8:38 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Guy Feeling GoodWhen it comes to illness, I am the queen of denial. I will attribute any ailment to anything but the truth. “It’s allergies,” is my favorite reasoning, having been used for almost every sickness I’ve experienced in the past several years. However, few believe my claim (apparently an allergy to colored paperclips is unfathomable), and I am always forced to prove my wellness by engaging in “healthy” activities, like exercise. Pulling on my running shoes and working through my usual routine will, provided it ends as I want it to, do nothing but illustrate my superior health . . . or so I like to think. But exercise during sickness can actually make the illness worse.  It can stress an already stressed body, prolonging and sometimes worsening the ailment.

True, that’s not always the case. There are instances when working out won’t do a thing but ease your sedentary guilt (or in my case, strengthen my claims), but how do you know the difference? How do you know when you should stay in bed or hit the gym? It varies case by case, but there are some guidelines you can keep in mind the next time you get sick that should help you determine what level of activity is appropriate:

• If it’s in the nose, you can workout. However, you cannot workout at maximum capacity. Tone it down a bit, shortening your cardio and decreasing your lifting reps.
• If it’s a sore throat and only a sore throat, you can continue to exercise. But as with the aforementioned congestion, take it easy.
• If you have the flu, meaning you’re achy, fatigued, feverish, vomiting, have a severe sore throat and are more unconscious than conscious, go back to bed. You have the flu. You shouldn’t be out in public let alone at the gym.
• If you have a persistent cough or anything in the lungs/chest, don’t exercise. You are already wheezing; why would you want to worsen it by running a few miles? For that matter, how can you think that you could run a few miles?
• If you have a headache, try to determine what the source is. A stress headache may actually be helped by exercise. A migraine (blinding pain coupled with the fetal position and a desperate search for aspirin) will not be.
• If you are on the road to recovery, ease yourself back into your routine. Your body is just now regaining its strength; don’t sap it all back out immediately.

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