The Neck Rule

6 Feb

The sun does exist!

I tell ya, living in North Carolina for 4 years during the winter has made me forget what a real winter is. I think this is the FIRST time I’ve been legit sick. Something’s going around; co-workers are sick, Adam is sick, and everyone and their brother is feeling under the weather.


It is believed that regular, consistent exercise can lead to substantial benefits in immune system health over the long-term (ACE fitness)

However, sometimes enough is enough and we get sick. For my co-workers and I, our main job is to exercise; whether it’s teaching a class, training a client, or sneaking in some “me” time, our job is provide exercise for our participants, regardless of how we’re feeling.

So..the question arises..

Should I (could I) exercise when I’m sick?

Every body is unique; one’s “cold” may be another’s “I’m on my death-bed”. When it comes to exercising when you’re feeling less-than stellar, experts use the “above the neck” rule to gauge whether or not it’s safe to be active, if it’s even worth it, and if you’d benefit from taking a rest day.

Above the neck symptoms include nasal congestion (the sniffles and sneezes), sore throats and teary eyes.


If you have these symptoms, light to moderate intensity workouts can help drain head congestion; after 10 minutes of low-impact activity and you feel okay, it’s safe to increase the intensity gradually. Watch! Overdoing it with heavy, intense exercise may actually reduce your immune system function and prevent you from getting better! Exercising at max intensity with above the neck symptoms should NOT be a goal.

Below the neck symptoms involve fever, chest congestion, coughing, aching body and fatigue.

Chest stache

Had to. Adam do NOT get any ideas.

If you have these symptoms, it’s best to completely rest. ACSM states that a rest period of 2-4 weeks is adequate and a slow, monitored progression back into exercise is the best practice (maybe even a physician’s clearance too).

All in all, the best practice to exercising when you’re sick is to listen to your body! Stay hydrated, eat a well-balanced diet, and obtain adequate sleep will help you get back to your routine.

5 Responses to “The Neck Rule”

  1. Alex @ therunwithin at 4:37 pm #

    that dog picture is so funny, I always wondered about this

  2. OUCampusRec at 6:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on OU CampusRec.

  3. sarahsdoodles at 4:09 am #

    I’m totally with ya on the whole ” exercise staves off illness” thing! Since getting really into fitness/healthy eating I’ve only really gotten sick a handful of times and I have yet to take a sick day from work! I, too follow the above/below the neck rule. I try to do some sort of fitness activity, but just watch the intensity of it. Feel better!!

  4. Life After Swimming at 12:00 am #

    totally good to know! I enjoy working out when I feel a little sick because sometimes it clears out my system…especially when swimming. The water is great for flushing everything out…TMI? haha

  5. Michelle at 12:03 am #

    I love that you posted this! I did a lot of research on this for grad school a couple years ago!

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