In a world where so many health experts often point fingers at our excuses for why we can’t exercise, it might be strange to read this article title. However, we’re not talking the regular frivolous excuses for skipping a workout—such as “I’m just too busy” or “I can’t miss the double episode of the bachelor tonight”.
No, because we know that if you get caught up in empty logic, you’ll never get off the couch and get moving. However, there are times when you should consciously skip a workout with good reason. Times when the decision to exercise vs. skip a day might make the difference between a serious illness or injury…
1. You’re Feverish
According to Dr. Wayne Stokes, director of sports medicine at Rusk Rehabilitation (part of the Langone Medical Center at NYU), having a fever is your cue to stay in bed until the fever has subsided rather than sweat it out at the gym.
Dr. Stokes reminds us that working out with a fever of 101-degrees or more can lead to dangerous dehydration, and on rare occasions cause myocarditis, or heart issues caused by the inflammation of the heart muscle.
2. Persistent Aches and Pain
Muscle aches and pains, especially in the days following a strenuous workout often indicate muscle growth. However, Dr. Moira McCarthy, Orthopedic Surgeon on the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, notes that continual pain in a muscle or joint can indicate an injury.
Persisting muscle pain is often a sign of a fracture or strain (i.e., plantar fasciitis)—whereas chronic joint pain can indicate overuse and injury. Instead of ignoring the problem, focus on rest until the pain subsides, or consult a medical professional for persistent pain.
3. You’re Sacrificing Sleep for Exercise
You may think you deserve a pat on the back for still getting to a spin class when sleep deprived. However, sacrificing essential sleep (and it’s essential) for a workout can have really negative effects on your health.
According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, even cutting sleep short for one night can stress out the body and hormone levels (i.e., elevated cortisol leads to overeating). If you constantly skimp on sleep, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular problems.
4. You’re Always Tired
According to WebMD, if you’re getting adequate sleep and still running on empty, the last thing you need is to force a workout. Chronic fatigue typically indicates an underlying health issue, and often leads to an problem with the thyroid.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck that’s responsible for hormone production for energy. Unexplained fatigue could also indicate chronic fatigue syndrome or another health issue demanding immediate attention.
5. You’ve Got the Sickness
At the first sign of a cold (i.e., coughing, congestion, runny nose and sore throat) I used to shrug it off and power through a workout anyhow. I was wrong. Every single time I did so, I ended up with a sinus infection.
That’s because I ignored the subtle signs that my body was trying to fight off an infection, according to Jessica Matthews, senior advisor of health and fitness education from the American Council on Exercise and assistant professor of exercise science at San Diego’s Miramar College. While low intensity, gentle exercise (i.e., think walking or gentle yoga) can bolster circulation and help you ward off a mild cold, pushing your body so hard your coughing up a storm during your workout means you should rest and recoup before hitting the gym.
6. Muscle Pain
If you hit the weights hard the day before, chances are you may be experiencing some delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. Strenuous exercise, particularly resistance results in minuscule tears in your muscle tissue. It’s this muscle damage that repairs and leads to muscle growth.
However, if you ignore the pain and pile strenuous workout upon strenuous workout—overtraining the same muscles without rest—you increase your risk of sustaining a muscle injury. Instead, try alternating your workouts according to muscle group to give, for example, your lower body a chance to rest, while you concentrate on your upper body. Or alternate intense weight-bearing workouts with non-weight-bearing exercise.