Just because you're not feeling well doesn't mean you can't exercise.

People with colds and even those recovering from infectious mononucleosis can engage in activities such as biking and swimming and even running as long as they do so with a dose of common sense, according to two sports medicine experts.For those with colds and symptoms such as a runny nose and sneezing, exercise generally is safe as long as you do not have a temperature, a hacking cough or body aches, says David Bernhardt, an assistant professor of pediatrics and a team doctor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"If it is just a cold, a lot of people just keep going," says Bernhardt. He adds, however, cold sufferers will need to cut back on the intensity and the amount of their exercise.

He agrees with the general rule of thumb of exercising with lower intensity for two days for each day of being sick. In other words, a person who has a cold for a week may need to cut back somewhat for the next two weeks.

"I just say go by how you feel," says Greg Landry, a professor of pediatrics and head team physician at UW-Madison.

Landry and Bernhardt made the comments in interviews recently at the annual UW sports medicine symposium.

In a presentation, Landry also said it is safe for athletes and other individuals to resume exercise as early as three weeks after being diagnosed as having mononucleosis. However, he notes some sport medicine experts suggest waiting up to three months but that a majority would compromise on four weeks.

The primary concern of returning to exercise too early is the increased risk of rupturing the spleen, he says. Mononucleosis causes an enlargement of the spleen, which reaches its maximum size within four weeks.

"When the spleen is at its biggest may be the highest time of risk," Landry says.

Generally, individuals may resume light physical activity such as biking or swimming within three weeks if they feel normal and there is no evidence of an enlarged spleen, he says.

"As soon as an athlete feels able, we let them get on an exercise bike," Landry says, but adds that he has noticed some athletes push themselves too hard too soon and as a result they prolong their illness.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)