minutes per mile blog

should you exercise when you’re sick?

Morning! Still rocking the sniffles over here, but I think I’m on the mend. Hopefully I sweat the rest of this sickness off at my favorite Tuesday boot camp class this morning…gym_weights_20160412_061437Which brings up the question: Should you exercise when you’re sick? I’ve wrote about this a few years ago (wow, early blog days) but let’s discuss again. I personally subscribe to the “neck rule,” which says that if you don’t have any symptoms below your neck, you’re good to go. For example: If you have a headache and stuffy nose (like I do), then you can exercise because those are above the neck. If you have achy joints or a stomach ache, then don’t exercise because you’re sick below the neck. The one question I always have: Does a sore throat count as above the neck, or below the neck? I typically consider it above as an excuse to get some fresh air :)

With this in mind, I took my above-the-neck sickness out for a run yesterday.20160411_070138Obviously the neck rule can’t apply to all illnesses and the severity of your symptoms matter — for instance, a migraine or a serious case of the flu might both be “above the neck” but I obviously wouldn’t consider running with either!

Still, I like the neck rule as a general guideline. I’ll typically still run if I’ve got a stuffy nose or headache (and in fact, some crazy part of my brain thinks that the blood flow and fresh air might make me feel a bit better?) but never do difficult workouts when I’m under the weather. Yesterday I only did three little miles.20160411_071314The neck rule was even tested in a study that found running for 30-40 minutes a day made no difference in recovery time among people with cold-like symptoms. And WebMD gives a cautionary “okay” to the neck rule:

“A neck check is a way to determine your level of activity during a respiratory illness,” adds Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion,sneezing, and tearing eyes, then it’s OK to exercise,” he says. “If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, then it’s time to hang up the running shoes until these symptoms subside.”

So: What do you think? Is the neck rule a good principle to live by, or am I crazy? Anthony personally thinks that the neck rule makes no sense, and I’ve even heard people say that they believe in the opposite of the neck rule — that is, if symptoms are above the neck you should rest, and if symptoms are below the neck you should exercise. ??!!

Anyways. If there’s one thing we all agree on when it comes to sickness, it’s soup! After eating smoke and pork all weekend, something light and healthy sounded good.broccoli_soup_DSC0729Martha Stewart’s broccoli-white bean soup has been a favorite of ours for years. I rarely make a recipe twice, but this one is special! Oh Martha.broccoli_soup_DSC0720Homemade whole wheat rolls on the side, shimmering with butter :)rolls_DSC0726Off to get this day started!

  • Exercising/running while sick: What’s your rule?

10 thoughts on “should you exercise when you’re sick?

  1. I’m with you with the neck rule. It usually makes me feel a bit better to get some fresh air and move my body too! If I’m super achy or something then generally I don’t want to do much of anything anyway so I just go with that!

  2. I trust WebMD! Although if I have a stuffy nose, I’m less inclined to exercise because I hate only breathing through my mouth.

    • i know! my lips are super chapped from being outside so much and having to breathe through my mouth for the past 4 days

  3. I typically follow that rule too, but a bad sore throat will keep me in………..especially if it is cold or rainy. Those rolls look delicious!!

  4. I’m with you. Exercise is a natural decongestant. I’ve read that colds are just mild viruses and what you do has little effect on your recovery. Anything more serious than a cold virus I go with this one: sleep is nature’s nurse.

  5. I subscribe to the neck rule as well!! I will say there’s probably a few times I’ve run when I shouldn’t have but we live and learn, right? 😉