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Should you hit the gym or not?

You’ve booked your favorite barre class, but you’re not feeling great. Can you still go? Here’s how to tell.


Once you’ve geared yourself up for a trip to the gym, nothing can stop you … right? 

Often tiny aches and pains give us pause when it comes to our workouts, and it can be hard to tell if it’s worth skipping that exercise routine altogether. As it turns out, there are some ailments where putting off spin class is probably for the best, while continuing to work out through others might help you feel better. The next time you’re feeling out of sorts with one of the following ailments, you’ll know if it’s better to put the gym off to another day or if you should keep it on your to-do list.

Ailment: Your back is aching.

Should you hit the gym? Back pain can take on many different forms and stem from many different issues. If you’re experiencing severe pain, or if your pain comes with other symptoms like fever, make an appointment with your doctor, not the gym. For minor backaches, though, some studies have found that people who exercise and work on flexibility manage their pain better, and exercise can sometimes even used as a treatment for low back pain. One study suggested that exercise is particularly helpful for the following goals: to improve or eliminate impairments in back flexibility and strengthen and improve performance of endurance activities, and to reduce the intensity of back pain. 

Ailment: You have menstrual cramps.

Should you hit the gym? Period pain might put a damper on your social plans, but it doesn’t have to ruin your workout. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, regular aerobic exercise may ease the symptoms of PMS.

Ailment: You can’t stop sniffling.

Should you hit the gym? Light-to-moderate exercise when you’re experiencing minor symptoms of a cold (especially if you feel mostly OK besides the sniffles) is likely fine, but skip intense exercises like weight lifting or endurance runs. If you feel like you can’t get out of bed, don’t. 

Ailment: You have a headache.

Should you hit the gym? Headaches are like back pain in that they can stem from many different issues and can vary in intensity. With head pain it’s best to listen to what your body is telling you. Slight headaches caused by tension or stress might get a bit of relief from a short, easy run or walk, but with any headache you’ll want to stick with something low-impact and relaxing. Headaches that come with nausea, vomiting or vision impairment require a visit to your doctor, so the gym will just have to wait.