The Neck Test for Symptoms
Have you ever taken a neck test’? You might have done so, but you didn’t really know you were doing it. The neck test is a system doctors use to determine whether or not you are too sick to work out. Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum, director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, says that the best way to tell if you should ‘sock it to it” OR sock it in” is to take the neck test. If your symptoms are above the neck and include sniffles, congestion, sneezing, or sore throat, then exercise may even help you by opening your nasal passages and relieving congestion.
If you are below-the-neck” sick
However, if your symptoms are below the neck and include hacking cough, upset stomach, wheezing, widespread fatigue, or muscle aches, then you’re better off skipping the workout and getting some rest. If you are below-the-neck” sick, and you attempt to follow your normal routine, you’re likely to risk more serious injury or illness. That’s because your susceptibility to respiratory infections spikes for several hours after a workout. Exercising under those conditions could do more harm than good.
If you do pass the neck test and make the decisions to exercise through your illness, Dr. Rosenbaum recommends starting at 50% intensity, and increasing to 80% or so only if you feel okay in the first 10 minutes. There are a few other key considerations as well. Be sure to stay hydrated – drink twice what you normally would. Nasal drainage can cause dehydration, and so can any antihistamines or decongestants you might be taking. Also, be extra vigilant about germs. Avoid any person-to-person contact, and avoid touching your face. Wipe down exercise equipment before you use it.
So what are the best exercises when you’re feeling under the weather? Try something gentler than you’re used to. Replace that 5 mile run with a 2 mile walk. Switch up the 90 minute spin class with a 60 minute Yoga class. That hour strength Training session could turn into a half hour of Pilates. Just remember to look for warning signs, and stop immediately if you feel feverish, dizzy or lightheaded, or if your heart rate suddenly increases. Otherwise, you’ve got a green flag to exercise.