Should You Exercise When Sick?

Feeling the sniffles coming on?  How about coughing and sneezing?  As if you needed any more excuses not to exercise.

As hard as it is to find that motivation to go out on the road or gym to get your exercise done for the day, deciding if you should workout when you are sick could be a decision that affects you both short term and long term.  

But those that do find the strength to not let sickness break up that habit of exercising, may be onto something when it comes to bettering their health.  

As some experts would argue that daily exercise may be beneficial when it comes to aiding illnesses like the common cold.  Those who exercise on a regular basis tend to get sick less compared to those that are less active.  

If done correctly, it is possible to reduce the number of days you are sick significantly due to building up your immune system.  

While working out could help in overcoming symptoms like the cold, even the most active exerciser catches the cold bug at some point. So learning if you should exercise when sick, keep this rule in mind…

The Neck Rule

When deciding if you should exercise, experts like to go with the “neck rule.”  If your symptoms affect you above the neck (stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, headache), you probably have a minor head cold and are safe to go for a run or get to the gym.

But if you are feeling achy, have a fever or chest pains, it could be a sign of the flu or other serious ailments.  It would probably be best that you skip the gym and rest up until you feel better.  

Working out while feeling any of these serious symptoms could cause serious injury to not only you, but to those around you.  While the neck rule is a good rule to follow, it is most certainly not foolproof.  

So it is important to use caution when deciding to workout while sick.  As many things can be affected due to illness like hydration causing you to lack energy.

Use Common Sense

If you feel you have a fever or the flu, then the best course of action is to stay in bed and rest up for a few days.  But if your symptoms include a minor head cold, then you should be good to go.

But make sure you take it easy on your workout.  As it is easy to find yourself dehydrated due to the weakening of your immune system.

If you are a person who prefers to exercise outdoors, then make sure to carry a water bottle if you plan on going for a jog.

If you are someone who is looking for greater resistance, then I would recommend you use machines at the gym.  Try to avoid using free weights as that could be extremely dangerous depending on the severity of your illness.

Watch Out For Germs

If you plan to exercise outdoors, then you should not have to worry too much about spreading or catching germs.  But if you plan to workout in the gym, I would not be exaggerating when I say the gym is infested with germs.  

So making sure you are not there spreading more of your germs around the gym and being careful not to make yourself sicker than you already are, is extremely important.  Being that your immune system is already vulnerable to attacks, a simple head cold could easily turn into the flu or worse.  

So making sure to stay clear of you mouth and eyes while exercising is an important tip to follow.  Also, after you are done working out, either wash your hands after or use hand sanitizer to kill any lingering germs you may have picked up.

Please share below any tips you have on how you workout when you are not at 100 percent.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 6 comments
Norma S. - November 8, 2016

Hi Ralph — thanks for sharing! I am an exercise addict, and I tell you, I have exercised even with pneumonia. Not that my body told me “no, don’t do it”, my mind dominated and said, “if you can get up, go do it” However, I do need to keep in mind to keep hydrated when exercising. Nothing bad has happened – so far, and good thing I only get sick once every couple of years. I understand I can make others sick, so I end up just doing exercise outdoors in my neighborhood (usually no one else is up when I am at 04:30am) or I would just stay home and do a workout video. Working in the health field too, I sort of know what to do/what not to do. I do see how this article can be very helpful to those who may not have any idea whether or not they should push themselves to exercise when sick.

    Ralph - November 9, 2016

    Hi Norma! Same here, I tend to exercise no matter how I feel, but know when it’s time to take that break. I try to listen to my body as much as I can.

Sofia - November 8, 2016

Thanks for sharing. I agree, the gym has germs everywhere. When I leave the gym, I use hand sanitizer and when I get in my car, I have a large hand sanitizer I use before I start driving.

I go into the steam room if I have a cold. Something about the heat can clear the congestion. I use a really strong antioxidant that helps when I have the start of a cold, I take it immediately and the next day I am good.


    Ralph - November 9, 2016

    Thanks Sofia! Happy to hear that you are taking proper precautions when it comes to germs at the gym. Not that I’m a germaphobe or anything, but I pride myself on not getting sick much so making sure I can prevent getting sick is a big thing for me.

Dejan - November 8, 2016

Hello there,
I have been swimming for all my life really and I think it’s one of the best sports to be in. Whenever I was sick, getting in that pool resulted in me feeling better and getting rid of the sickness. Especially when I had a cold. I wouldn’t advise it if you’re feeling bad, though since you’ll throw up the moment you jump in there hehe. I guess it’s really – To each his own. You need to figure out what suits you the best. Thanks for the article!

    Ralph - November 9, 2016

    It definitely is up to the person to figure out what works best for them. Making sure you make safety a priority is key in getting an effective workout. Sometimes working out can make your illness go away faster.


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