Should you train when you’re sick?

Posted on 11 July 2016

If you’re not feeling well, should you continue to train or exercise? Many amateur athletes will be asking this question in the coming months, so we got answers from a Mediclinic GP.

‘It’s difficult to give a hard and fast rule,’ says Dr David Walsh, a GP at Mediclinic Bloemfontein. ‘But I tell my patients to beware of sore muscles, and body aches and pains – especially if combined with a fever. As a rule of thumb, if you have a virus and your doctor has put you on antibiotics, it’s best that you don’t train,’ he advises.

‘Technically, there’s nothing stopping you from training,’ he continues. ‘After all, there are pro cyclists who do the Tour de France on antibiotics. But, in principle, if you have symptoms of viremia – that’s the presence of viruses in your blood – you could run the risk of damaging your heart muscle.’

Test yourself

One easy self-test is what some doctors call the ‘neck test’. If your symptoms are above the neck, such as a runny nose, dry cough, tearing eyes or sneezing, you’re good to train; if they are below the neck, for example fever, chest congestion, muscle aches, tummy bug and so on, it’s best to give it a rest.

And forget the old wives’ tale about ‘sweating out’ a fever!

These are only general rules, though. As Dr Walsh emphasises, if you’re not sure whether you’re well enough to train, rather speak to your doctor before you hit the gym.

And when you do, listen to your body. Colds usually last for about a week to 10 days, but it could take as long as three weeks or a month to recover from the flu. When you get back into training, ease yourself into it and don’t go full-out right away.

Published in Cape Town Marathon

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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