Austin-Area Sports Medicine Doctor Has The Answers On Whether Or Not To Exercise When Sick

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Medicine in Motion has the rules for working out when under the weather.

Austin-area sports medicine

Austin-area sports medicine

If your symptoms are all above the neck, it’s generally okay to exercise.

Cold and flu season is here. Adults will catch one or two colds per year, while seasonal influenza affects up to 20 percent of people in the United States each year. During this season, people who regularly exercise often don’t want to skip out on gym visits and physical fitness just because of a sniffle or a sneeze – but should they?    

“As a rule of thumb for exercise and illness, I recommend using the ‘neck check’,” said Dr. Martha Pyron, owner of Medicine in Motion. “If your symptoms are all above the neck, it’s generally okay to exercise. For example, a runny nose shouldn’t hold you back, but chest congestion is reason to stay at home and get some rest.”

It’s generally acceptable to exercise when experiencing these “above the neck symptoms” include:

  • Low energy
  • Sneezing
  • Sinus pressure
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Tearing eyes
  • Minor sore throat

When facing the following “below the neck symptoms,” get plenty of rest while your immune system recovers:

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Hacking cough
  • Chest congestion
  • Fatigue

Light to moderate exercise often helps provide energy, clear sinuses, and increase circulation – all of which can help a person feel better when overcoming a cold. Some exercises to consider when suffering from a mild illness include: walking, jogging (if it’s already a part of the regular workout routine), yoga, and cardio dance.

When contemplating a return to the gym, remember the following workout etiquette tips:

  • Use a towel to cover surfaces that would otherwise be touched.
  • Wipe off equipment when finished with it.
  • Wash hands before and after the workout.
  • Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel in a gym bag for regular use.
  • Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • If excessive sneezing or coughing is occurring, consider staying home.
  • Germs spread easily on workout equipment. If still contagious, stay home.

Dr. Pyron added, “It’s important to listen to your body. Your strength and performance will probably be functioning at a reduced capacity, so don’t attempt to match your normal routine, particularly if you’re feeling irregular strain or discomfort. When in doubt, it’s always best to consult your doctor with any questions.”

Medicine in Motion (MIM) specializes in providing top quality family medicine and treatment for sports injuries in Austin, Texas, for athletic individuals of all ages and levels. The staff at MIM believes active bodies are healthy bodies, therefore it is the office's goal to keep patients energetic and fit. To that end, MIM provides treatment of injuries and illnesses, including the use of physical rehabilitation; promotes healthy living with personal training and nutrition coaching; and offers comprehensive sports, work, and daily life injury evaluations to optimize health, activity level and sports performance. For more information or for questions regarding athlete care in Austin, contact Medicine in Motion at 512-257-2500 or visit the website at

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Daniel Harvell
since: 11/2010
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