Fitness enthusiasts are often uncertain whether they should exercise or rest during illness. Human studies are lacking to provide definitive answers. Animal studies, however, generally support the finding that 1 or 2 periods of exhaustive exercise following injection of the animal with certain types of viruses or bacteria lead to a more frequent appearance of infection and more severe symptoms.


With athletes, it is well established that the ability to compete is reduced during sickness. Also, several case histories have shown that sudden and unexplained downturns in athletic performance can sometimes be traced to a recent bout of sickness. In some athletes, exercising when ill can lead to a severely debilitating state known as “postviral fatigue syndrome.” The symptoms can persist for several months and include ...

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