Should You Workout When You Are Sick?

It’s difficult enough trying to stick with a fitness plan when you’re healthy and feeling good. Even during these times, life throws various curves your way that can break a regular exercise routine. However, when you come down with the flu or a cold, it makes it even harder to make it to the gym. Stuffy head, fever, upset stomach and multiple other symptoms try desperately to rob you of your much needed commitment to exercise.

So, how do you know if you should shake off the heeby geebies and bounce up for a workout? The experts at Mayo Clinic provide good guidelines when it comes to exercising when sick. Here’s what to look for:

Working Out When Sick

Exercise can actually be beneficial for you when sick under certain circumstances. It can open up your nose and lungs, providing temporary relief from congestion. It helps by increasing your circulation which transports germ-fighting nutrients to affected areas and also boosts your immune system.

However, you should reduce your workout sessions to mild or moderate activity since a great deal of your body’s energy is being redirected to fighting the bug. Simply tone down your fitness program to walking instead of running, or performing low impact weight training instead of high intensity weight training.

According to experts, the rule of thumb is that you can work out if your symptoms are “above the neck”. Basically, this means experiencing such things as a headache, sneezing, sore throat, nasal congestion, or runny nose.

When to Stay Down

If a nasty flu has knocked you down with symptoms that are considered “below the neck” such as upset stomach, fever, chest congestion, muscle aches, hacking cough and diarrhea, then you should concede to your opponent and stay down.

Under such conditions, it is much more beneficial to allow your body all the energy it requires to combat the sickness, which will get you back on your feet more rapidly. As you begin to feel better, resume a light exercise routine and gradually increase your workouts until you’re back at 100%.

Working out smarter applies to when you’re sick but also already in top shape. If you press ahead when your body is screaming for relief then you could do more harm than good.  Not allowing your body adequate rest could prolong, or even worsen, your illness.


Bottom line is to adhere to the above guidelines and ultimately listen to your body. If you feel that exercise would make you feel worse then avoid it for a few days and spend the time recovering. Missing a few exercise sessions won’t ruin your life, and if it is giving you stress then relax and know you are mentally committed!

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