Should you work out when you’re sick?

If your nose is running, should you be too? It can be devastating to be doing so well on a routine, never missing a day, seeing results, then being hit with the flu or a common cold. Many work out warriors will go through their routine whether it’s rain or shine, but there are certain times when working out can be detrimental to your health. We help break down when and when you shouldn’t workout depending on what kind of sickness you have.

When You Should Work Out

There’s a general rule regarding working out while sick. If your symptoms are above the neck (ie. a runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, watery eyes, other common cold symptoms) then feel free to lightly exercise. Do not follow your typical routine but rather just move the body around. This can clear up congestion and the nasal passage. This does not mean that you should go work out if you feel like you’ve been hit by a train though. If you feel well enough for a walk or some light cardio, feel free to do so.

Even if you feel well enough to work out, avoid prolonged strenuous exercises when you are sick at all costs. This is the same principle that causes so many endurance athletes to become ill. The body is working so hard to repair the muscles and recover, that it does not have sufficient resources to bolster up the immune system.

The important fact to remember is that your body is still in recovering stages so you should not push it at all. Also be mindful that if you’re going to the gym, people may not appreciate you coughing and sneezing on the machines. This can be remedied by having gym equipment at home.

When You Should Not Work Out

While it’s fully possible to exercise with a cold, it is highly recommended that you do not do so when you have a flu. Flus are generally associated with fevers and a dangerous rise in body temperature. Exercise is a sure way to raise your body temperature so exercising with a fever is extremely dangerous and can cause serious health risks.

You should not exercise when symptoms are below the neck, which includes chest congestion, coughing or stomach issues. These problems can be further aggravated by excessive movement.

Also not recommended is exercising when you can barely get up. It is dangerous because you can collapse at any moment since your energy levels are already low. You probably won’t even make it to the elliptical if you have trouble getting out of bed.


Rule of thumb is you can exercise when you have above the neck symptoms; Don’t exercise with below the neck symptoms. Definitely do not exercise with a fever. In the end, just listen to your body. If you would struggle with a workout, don’t work out. Rest up and get better. Overall you can get back into the groove of things much quicker if you let your body heal and slowly work your way back.

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