Should You Workout While Sick?

December 4, 2014

As I currently sit here typing with no voice, I want to chat about working out while sick. Do you do it? Do you rest? But what if you’re sick multiple days in a row? Do you rest all those days? Do you go all out anyway?


So many questions, but ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out if you can workout or not. I’ve heard the rule “above-the-neck you’re good to go, and below you’re not.” While I do think this can be true in some cases, I don’t think it is always true. Have you ever worked out without being able to breathe out of your nose and snot dripping down your face? It’s no fun…

A couple of questions I ask myself when I’m sick to figure out if it’s worth it to hit the gym:

  • Do you FEEL like going to the gym?
    • This doesn’t mean “do you feel like you HAVE to go to the gym“, but this means do you really feel up to it. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.
  • What exactly is wrong?
    • If I have a fever or the flu, then the obvious answer is no. If it’s just a small sore throat, a bit of congestion, or a dry cough then usually I’m ok to work out if I’d like.
  • What do you plan to do?
    • If you have a long run on the agenda or something like that but you can barely breathe, then you can either alter your workout plans or just skip it. Be mindful!
  • Will you really get a good workout?
    • When you’re sick, you’re not always feeling your best. Sometimes you feel fine enough to still get in a decent workout, but if not, then I wouldn’t waste the time you could use to rest.

Keep in mind that while exercise is good for you, it is still a stressor to your body. If you’re sick and you exercise on top of that, that is double the stress which can lower your immune system and make your sickness last longer. So sometimes exercising while sick may do more harm than good. Resting is just as important as the other factors you need to do to stay healthy. If you’re really not feeling up to it, don’t – your body will thank you.

Overall, it’s about listening to your own body. 


Do you workout when you’re sick?

Have you had any experiences with this?

    1. Great advice on an – from what I’ve seen – much undervalued topic. Overall, I agree with your points especially in terms of making self-care a priority. Pushing through a workout when we’re actually feeling unwell can turn a little cold into a serious one. Or – and that’s where a doctor in my close family scared me – be deathly at the worst. He told me about a premiere league soccer player who died on the field after he had [I think] played while sick with a cold. Scary …

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