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Working Out When You're Sick - What the Healthcare Professional Says

Working out while sick

So it happened: you woke up with a sore throat, coughing, and your nose is running faster than you've ever done while out for a jog yourself. While you are jumping into the “get healthy” mode, you may think this is a free pass to skip your workout.

You guzzle down some tea or orange juice, you have a fresh box of tissues, and all you want to do is take some medication and go to sleep.

Are you supposed to work out when you are sick?

Hear what a healthcare professional has to say, below.




Working Out Can Help If

As a graduate from the Danish School of Pharmacy Technicians, I think it's important to point out that fact that exercise can help open up your airways and help with congestion. You may find that you need to decrease the intensity of your workouts until you're feeling better, though.

Strenuous exercise would more than likely just exacerbate your symptoms.

Movement can actually benefit your body when you are sick, especially if your symptoms are present above your neck, e.g. a runny nose, a headache, sneezing, etc.

Generally speaking, it's fine for a person to work out they have a viral upper respiratory infection.

It’s very important that you listen to your body. Stop if you notice your symptoms getting worse.

Working Out Is Counterproductive If

If you have any of these symptoms listed below, I would not recommend you to exercise while you're sick.


You’re Running a Fever

If you have a fever that cannot reduce to normal temperatures, you are at risk for overheating and dehydration, which working out is not going to improve.


Your Symptoms Are Severe

While there are athletes that love to train through the pain, you should stop exercising if you feel any of the following:

  • You have trouble breathing
  • Your muscles are aching
  • You notice weakness
  • You feel nauseous
  • You are vomiting
  • You have stomach pain


You Can’t Keep Liquids Down

Most people are aware that drinking water is important to staying hydrated and staying at peak performance, but what if you can’t even keep liquids down at all?

If you haven’t been able to keep anything down for the past 24 hours, that’s a pretty good sign you should wait a while before you exercise.

6 Tips for Exercising When You're Sick

When it comes to exercising when you are sick, you need to be aware that you can’t train like you've done previously. You’ll need to slow down a bit, decrease your intensity and simply focus on keeping moving.


1) - Try Something Different

If you have a cold, take that day to focus on parts of your workout you normally neglect. Try some corrective stretching and foam rolling for instance. These will help you build a foundation for gains once you are back to feeling healthy.


2) - Give Morning Exercise a Try

I know, I know: it's hard to get up before work to exercise early in the morning, but starting your day off with exercise can help make your body strong and agile as you are battling your sickness.

Related - 6 Reasons to Work Out Before Sunrise

Morning exercise is a great way to do meditation. It can start your day off better in both mental and physical performance.


3) - Stay Away From Other People

If you're sick and the weather permits it, try going outside to do your exercise instead of going to the gym.

The fresh air will help alleviate your congested airways and you can stay away from people as well. Nothing is worse than having to exercise around someone who's sick .. Especially if someone else could get sick from it.

Use exercise courtesy and try to avoid working out around other people. If you do go to the gym to exercise when you're sick, make sure to wipe down your machines and mats after you've used them.


4) Lower the Intensity

You're feeling sick, so there’s no reason to try and break any personal records. Take this time to decrease the intensity of your workouts until you feel better.

A lot of strenuous activity could potentially worsen your symptoms. Think of this as simply staying active and in movement.

5) - Layer Your Clothes

I suggest you dress in layers that you can peel off at the gym as you warm up. If you’re exercising outdoors, be sure to cover your head since that's a part of the body from which we lose a lot of heat.


6) - Stay Hydrated

When the temperature is low outside, people tend to drink less water for some reason. This can lead to dizziness, fatigue or dehydration. Making sure you stay hydrated allows your body to perform and helps aid your weakened immune system.

Keep water on hand throughout the day and sip on it when you can. If you have a fever and feel so sick you can't go to the gym or even exercise at home or outside, it's even more important that you keep the fluids coming.


Wrapping It Up

When we're talking about exercising while sick, the doctors say it is okay to exercise if you have symptoms "above shoulder level". Having the sniffles is no reason to skip out on going to the gym to work out.

It is, however, very important that you listen to your body and focus on staying active while you get better. This will help open up the clogged airways and help your body's recovery process.

Be polite and try to steer clear of other people when you're sick - especially if you choose to go the gym to exercise.