Working Out While Sick: What You Should Know

An in-depth guide to everything you need to know about working out while sick. Working Out While Sick: What You Should Know

Sweat it out or rest and recover? This question has been around for ages and asked by everyone who is used to exercising every single day and who it bothers to miss even one workout session. In all reality, if you’re feeling sick or even a little under the weather, the last thing you want to do is get out there and sweat when working out. However, some experts say that’s the best thing for you, to sweat it out. However, some experts also claim that the last thing you need to do is sweat it out and overwork yourself when you have a cold or flu. Then, there’s the whole going to the gym, touching everything, and infecting the rest of the general population as well.Cold

One expert recommends using what he has coined the “neck rule.” This means if the symptoms are above the neck, Of course,  such as a stuffy nose, sinus pressure, and sneezing, then moderate exercise might actually make you feel better. There are also many options out there for exercising when sick. In this blog, we will go into when you shouldn’t exercise when sick, which exercises or good and which are bad for you, and try to determine whether exercising when sick is good for you at all. So, grab your cup of Theraflu, curl up under a blanket on the couch, and let’s delve into our blog on working out while sick and everything you should know.


When It’s Safe to Exercise While Sick

There are a few symptoms that experts say it’s safe to exercise with. We will go into a few of those below for your perusal.

Common-ColdA Mild Cold

A mild cold is said to be a viral infection of your throat and your nose. While every person has different symptoms, the most common are mild coughs, sneezing, a headache, and a stuffy nose. If you’re just suffering from a mild cold, then there is no reason why you should have to cancel your workout, if you feel like going. However, there is the fact that you could be spreading germs around that will make others at your fitness center sick, so make sure that you practice good hygiene to ensure that you don’t spread your cold to others.

An Earache

If you’ve ever had an earache, you already know that it’s a dull or sharp ache that can leave you in extreme pain and can affect one or both ears. Working out when you have an earache if fine, as long as you’re not off balance, risking injury when driving or on the machines at the gym or even in your own home fitness center. There are many reasons for earache in adults, so if it persists or you develop a fever, don’t work out, instead make an appointment with your primary care provider for help and treatment.

A Stuffy Nose

While having a stuffy nose can be beyond aggravating, frustrating, and uncomfortable, there’s usually no reason that you shouldn’t be able to work out with one. However, if you are experiencing a fever or other malady on top of it, you might want to take some time off of working out to recuperate. Also, if the stuffy nose is leaving you short of breath, you will want to take some time off as well.

A Mild Sore Throat

If you have a mild sore throat that comes from allergies or a cold, then it should be okay to work out. However, if it is accompanied by a fever or a much worse cold, then you need to refrain from going to the gym, which could make you worse and other people sick as well.

When It’s Not Safe to Exercise While Sick

As you can see it’s pretty much safe to work out if you have a mild cold, allergies, earache or something that is not catching. Now it’s time to delve into the times when you don’t need to head out to the gym or even your own home fitness center if you’re sick.

If You Have a Fever

A normal temperature can vary from person to person, but if your temp is over 98.6 to 99.0, then you probably have a low-grade fever. Fevers, of course, can be caused by many things, but it is usually a bacterial or viral infection. This means that you need to be at home taking it easy, not out and about trying to exercise. Working out when you have a fever can cause you to become dehydrated and your fever to shoot up higher. Fevers can be dangerous, especially if you become dehydrated, so make sure that you stay inside your home and rest like you’re supposed too.

You Have a Frequent or Productive Cough

While a tickle in your throat that causes a cough isn’t a reason to skip your workout, a cough that is persistent, constant, takes your breath away, or is productive, is a sign that you might need to see a doctor or at least skip working out until you feel better. Coughing is also the main way that germs are spread during cold and flu season, so if you think you’re contagious then it’s best to skip the workout altogether, at home and at the gym as well.

If You have a Stomach Bug

While this might seem like a no-brainer if bears saying because you would be surprised how many people head to the gym with a stomach bug. If you are vomiting, have diarrhea, or are cramping, then these are symptoms of a stomach bug. Doing too much when you have a stomach bug can affect your digestive system and cause you problems you don’t want to deal with, take it easy and stay home instead.

You have Symptoms of the Flu

As we all know now, the flu is not something to play with. It can cause severe sickness and even death and can be spread very, very easily. While most people recover from the flu in at least two weeks, it is possible to prolong the illness by working out or doing activities that are too strenuous. On top of that, the flu is highly contagious and can be spread with just a handshake or a sneeze, so stay home if you have symptoms of the flu for yourself and others as well.

These are just a few of the top times to work out or not work out when you’re sick, there are quite a few more out there, of course. The best thing to do is to use your best judgment to determine if you will be putting yourself or others at risk by working out when you are under the weather. Now that we know when and when not to work out when sick, we need to figure out what the best activities are that you can do when you’re dealing with just a mild cold. We’ll go into this in the next section of our blog.

Best and Worst Exercises to Do When You Have a Cold

While you don’t want to work out when you’re seriously ill, there are a few activities that you can do if you have just a cold and some that you should avoid as well. In this section, we will go into the best and worst exercises to do when you have a cold.

Do Take Walks

Having a cold while not putting you out of commission completely, may lower your energy levels to the point where you don’t want to do anything other than what you absolutely have to do. However, getting out into the fresh air for even a brisk 20-minute walk can do wonders for your energy levels, your workout routine, and it will even work to clear your sinuses and give you some much-needed vitamin C as well. It’s important to note at this point that if walking makes you feel worse, then you need to go home and put off any exercise until you’re feeling better instead.

Do Try to Jog

As long as jogging is a part of your daily workout routine, then there’s no reason to skip it if you feel like going, just because of a mild head cold. Now, if that cold has moved into your chest or you have a fever, then you need to forgo the jog and instead call your doctor for an appointment. Running is also known to be a natural decongestant, so getting out into the fresh air for your daily jog might actually help with your stuffy nose and make you feel better.

Don’t Try Endurance Running

If you’re training for a marathon or any other type of endurance running, it’s best to take a break until your cold is gone. In general, when you have a mild head cold, moderate exercise can be good for you. However, high endurance exercise can lead to complications you don’t need to have to deal with. Think about it, if you’re coughing and have a stuffy nose are you really going to be able to run for miles and keep up your pace without getting dizzy and sick. Nope, didn’t think so.

Do Try Yoga

Experts have said that yoga is a great way to breathe and boost your immune system, so it can be done when you have a minor cold. It is also thought that the gentle stretching can relieve the aches, pains, and discomfort of the common cold and sinus infections as well.

Don’t Use the Machines at the Gym

How you exercise when you have a cold is important, but so is thinking about where you exercise. If you’re sneezing, coughing, and steadily wiping your nose, do you really want to put other people in that position as well? Remember, if you use the treadmill, the person that uses the treadmill after you is also going to be affected by your germs. If you have a cold, try doing mild exercises at home, so that you don’t cause an epidemic at your local fitness center. It’s just the right thing to do.

Don’t Lift Weights

One of the worst things you can do when you have a head cold is trying to lift weights. Your strength and your performance will be at low levels, which means that you could end up risking injury to yourself while trying to work out. Lifting weights can also make the headaches and sinus pressure associated with colds worse, which is something none of us want to deal with.

Don’t Play Team Sports

The absolute worst thing you can do when you have a head cold is showing up to play in the school basketball game or get out onto the football field with your teammates. Team sports require physical contact and that means your cold will soon infect the entire team. It’s best to stay out of the team sports arena until you’re feeling better and not contagious anymore. It’s best for you and your teammates and even the sport you play as well.

Don’t Do Anything that Requires Being Out in the Cold

If you have a bad cold, then it stands to reason that you don’t need to be out in the cold weather where the cold will only get worse. If it’s freezing outside and the snow is piling up, then you need to stay toasty warm on the inside of your home, until your cold is gone.

This concludes our blog on working out while you’re sick and everything you should know about it. If your cold doesn’t seem to be getting better or you feel that it is turning into a chest cold, it’s important to speak to your primary care provider to see about getting treatment. Until next time, stay safe, everyone!


  1. Health A to Z: Best and Worst Exercises to do When You Have a Cold
  2. Precision Nutrition: Exercise when Sick
  3. Healthline: Working Out While Sick: Good or Bad?