7 Exercise Dilemmas: When to Skip Your Workout, and When to Sweat It Out | Everyday Health

7 Exercise Dilemmas: When to Skip Your Workout, and When to Sweat It Out | Everyday Health

You want to work out. Trouble is, your body doesn’t always agree with you, and in some cases, exercising can wind up having the exact opposite effect of what it should do, making you feel worse instead of better. Yet it’s not always easy to make the call on whether you should stick with that sweat session or give your body a break for the day. See what experts advise doing in the following seven common scenarios:

The Verdict Sweat it out

The Rationale As long as you don’t have a fever and you feel like doing it, you’re cleared to exercise, says Susan L. Besser, MD, primary care provider at Mercy Medical Center in Overlea, Maryland. Just keep the workout intensity light to moderate — think walking or exercising on an elliptical — and make sure you’re staying hydrated. “If you’re sick, you’re already dehydrated so you need to drink plenty of water when you exercise,” she says.

Yet if you have a fever, defined as a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or above, or you’re coughing and hacking, sit this exercise session out until you’re feeling better. And by all means, if you have the flu, do what your body wants and rest. Otherwise, you could put your immune system into overdrive, which isn’t a good thing.

The Rationale If you’re feeling wretched, exercise will only make you feel worse, especially if you’re experiencing dizziness or nausea. “You could dehydrate yourself even more, and that could compound how bad you feel,” says Ashley Fagan, DO, internal medicine physician at Texas Health Family Care in Grapevine. As the day progresses and if you start feeling better, you could always try light activity, like walking or yoga. Just keep that reusable water bottle nearby; having a hangover can dehydrate you.

The Verdict Sleep it off

The Rationale If working out means that you’re going to have to skimp on sleep, it’s best to skip the gym. “Sleep should always take priority over exercise,” Dr. Besser says. “Being sleep deprived can be as bad as being on drugs or alcohol, as you won’t be thinking clearly and can’t focus or concentrate.” Instead of working out, stay in bed a little longer or go to bed earlier.

The Rationale This one depends on whether you’re dealing with a muscular issue or one that’s related to nerves, Dr. Fagan says. Because you won’t know until you start moving, try a low-impact activity like walking and don’t ramp up too fast. If you’re feeling better as you start moving — “if it’s muscular, movement can help stretch and loosen tight areas,” she explains — keep at it. However, if your back continues to send you warning signs, give yourself another day to recover. If it’s still bothering you or you have full-fledged back pain, see a doctor, Besser says.

The Verdict Sweat it out

The Rationale If it’s truly just muscle soreness from a new class, moving the next day is fine, although you might have to change your workout. “Think about doing an activity that your muscles are already familiar with or that’s less intense or uses different muscles,” says JJ Flizanes, a personal trainer in Beverly Hills, California, and author of The Invisible Fitness Formula.

Epson salt baths, massage, and light yoga can also help relieve soreness, Flizanes adds. If, however, you feel any type of joint pain, this could indicate that you pushed yourself so hard that you have inflammation in the body. That pain is a red flag to stop and rest, as doing more won’t fix the issue and could make things worse.

The Verdict Sweat it out

The Rationale Exercise is one of the best stress-busters, which is why you should move today. “That exercise will take your mind off your worries, and the endorphins your body releases from exercising will help lower your stress,” Besser says. Pick an activity like walking or elliptical training that allows you to listen to music, and do it for 20 or 30 minutes. The repetitive movement will further soothe the brain.

Better yet? Take your workout outside; a study published in September 2019 in Mental Health & Prevention found that outdoor exercise environments were perceived as more calming, and exercise sessions in more calming environments were linked to greater stress reduction.

Strength training can also cut that stress, especially if you need to get out some aggression, Besser adds. If you can’t commit to a full-length workout because you’re crunched for time, even a 10-minute workout can quell stress.

The Rationale This one’s too hard to make a blanket statement about without considering several variables, including how much you had to drink and if you were hydrating. “If you’ve only had one drink and you were drinking water at the same time, even better if you ate something to help slow down the absorption of alcohol, it’s probably okay to exercise,” Besser says.

Consider waiting about an hour or two after sipping that cocktail, though, to give your body a little more time to clear the alcohol. Just note that if you arrive at the class dehydrated, the workout will probably feel tougher than normal. However, if you’ve had two glasses or you’re feeling tipsy or drunk, skip that workout or else you’ll jeopardize your safety.