Listening to Your Body: When Not To Exercise

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By Kelly Taylor

None of us needs another excuse not to exercise. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 50 percent less likely to engage in physical activity than are whites. But sometimes, there are some valid reasons to sit out a session or two.

“The key is to be able to listen to your body and the cues it is giving you and decide if exercise is right at that time,” says Katie Rothstein, MS, a Cleveland Clinic exercise physiologist.

Before you decide to forego the gym for the couch, check your excuse against some expert advice.

“I’m sick.”

If you have a fever your body’s immune system is working hard to get rid of infection and the stress of exercise can be too much. When you have a fever your body fluids decrease and it’s probably best to stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids.

While the flu warrants skipping workouts, a cold does not. Experts say moderate-intensity workouts such as biking, walking briskly on a treadmill, and basketball cannot hurt when you are dealing with a common cold. Use hand sanitizer often and wipe down the equipment you use to prevent spreading your cold to other gym goers.

“I’ve got asthma.”

The good news is asthma is controllable. If you have recently had a flare-up due to a respiratory infection, talk to your doctor to find out when it is okay to resume working out. Otherwise, grab your doctor-prescribed inhaler and engage in low-to-moderate intensity workouts. Walking an indoor track, indoor swimming and stop-and-go activities such as baseball are best for asthma sufferers.

“I’m too tired.”

Simply didn’t get enough sleep last night? A good workout is a great way to start your morning and give your body a boost of energy. If the fatigue is stress related, exercise can actually reduce the feeling of stress. Chronic fatigue, however, may be another issue. If you are always tired and it is affecting your ability to function see your doctor. Chronic fatigue is a symptom of conditions including heart disease, anemia, hypothyroidism and sleep apnea.

“I’m pregnant.”

Yoga, walking and swimming are great low-impact workouts for pregnant women. After the first-trimester, avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back or otherwise put strain on your back or belly such as sit-ups and bicycling. As long as you don’t plan to play a game of touch football or go horseback riding you are okay to exercise while pregnant. In fact, exercise during pregnancy can help make it easier for you to deliver your baby and get back to your pre-pregnancy weight after birth.

“It hurts!”

Muscles can become sore if you overwork them. To keep soreness at a minimum, warm up by easing into your workout with a lower-intensity version of the workout you plan to do. For example, warm up for a 30-minute jog with a 5-minute walk. Cooling down after a workout is equally important and should be the same or similar exercise done to warm up.

If you’re so sore from your last workout that your walk is more like a limp, give your muscles a rest for a day and lower your workout intensity next time.

“It really, really hurts!”

Not to be confused with soreness, sharp or shooting pains are reason to skip the gym and head to a doctor to determine if an injury is present. An old injury that is still causing pain will also need to be checked out by a doctor.

Listen to your body and as long as your health is not at risk, leave your excuses at home and head to the gym. granted permission to reprint this article.

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