Best worst choice: exercising with a cold

The gist: 

Taking a week off because you’re sick can feel like an impossible ask. There are some rules you can follow to figure out whether it’s safe to exercise (and how) or if you really have to rest. 

Expert insight: 

If you feel symptoms above the neck, like congestion, watery eyes, or a cough, train at a moderate intensity for 20 to 45 minutes. Studies show this can strengthen the immune system and make symptoms fade more quickly, says Kathryn McElheny, MD, primary care sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Keep your heart rate below 70 percent of your max and stick to strength-focused routines like those in True Barre, Pilates Mat, and Band Burn. Skip cardio, which can further irritate the lungs. 

Break from training entirely if you have a fever (which increases your core temperature and risk of dehydration) or if your symptoms are below the neck.

To help strengthen your immune system outside the club, eat vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges and strawberries, and up your water intake, McElheny says. Drink 16 ounces four hours pre-workout, four ounces every 20 minutes while you’re exercising, and 24 ounces post-workout.

The bottom line: 

With above-the-neck symptoms, log no more than four sessions per week, McElheny advises. Doing too much could delay your recovery. If you’re totally sidelined, resume your regular schedule once your symptoms are gone.