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How Sick Is Too Sick to Exercise?

Should you work out when you're not feeling well? Here's practical advice.

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You may be the kind of person who insists on working out even when you're sick. Not a good idea. But if you feel you must because your team "needs you" or you're training for a 10K race next month, here is some practical advice.

William Primos, M.D., a sports medicine specialist in Charlotte, North Carolina, suggests following the "neck check" rule. If symptoms are above the neck (earache, stuffy nose, sneezing, or sore throat), then exercise -- but start at half speed. If you feel OK after 10 minutes, proceed at normal intensity.

If symptoms are below the neck (bad cough, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea), forget it. Head for bed, not for the health club. Exercise exacerbates dehydration in your body, which is already dehydrated by your illness.

"Exercise stresses the body, which takes away some of its ability to heal," says Dr. Primos. Symptoms may worsen and sideline you even longer than the normal expected recovery.

Once you're completely healed, come back slowly. A good rule of thumb, says Dr. Primos, is to go easy for two days for each day that you were sick.

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