Working Out While Sick: Is It Good Or Is It Bad?

Working Out While Sick: Is It Good Or Is It Bad?

Authored by Marshall on March 22, 2023

As an athlete, you always put your well-being first. That’s why you engage in regular exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. So, what happens when you come down with a cold? Many athletes are curious: is it good to work out while sick, or can it make matters worse? 

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as “yes or no.” After all, sickness encompasses a large range of symptoms and bodily effects. There are some cases where a bit of light exercise may potentially help ease cold symptoms. However, cold and flu symptoms will often worsen due to exercise. They also increase the difficulty of your workout. To make matters worse, exercising while sick may cause a longer recovery time. Obviously, nobody wants that! 

Unsure whether you should be in bed or at the gym? If your current cold or flu symptoms have you stumped, read on. We’ll discuss how to make the best decisions about working out while under the weather. We also recommend that you speak to both your doctor and your fitness coach before working out while sick. They will be able to assess your specific symptoms and exercise plan to determine whether or not it’s better to hold off.

Are There Any Benefits of Working Out While Sick?

Gentle exercise can sometimes help people feel better when they have a cold, especially if their symptoms include congestion. Movement can help your nasal passages clear up, but the relief is usually temporary. 

Are There Any Risks of Working Out While Sick?

Exercising while sick can come with risks, especially for folks experiencing more severe symptoms. While an athlete with a mild head cold will likely be fine undertaking a workout, the same does not go for someone experiencing symptoms like fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. There are a few reasons for this. 

It Feels Awful

Does your cold or flu include gastrointestinal symptoms, a phlegmy cough, a fever, or body aches? We’ll venture to say that you feel pretty lousy right now—and you’re probably reading this while sitting or lying down. If this is how your body feels while in resting mode, imagine how terrible it will feel while exerting the energy and force necessary for a workout. No, thank you!

It Can Leave You Dehydrated

If your body is already dehydrated from nasty symptoms like fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, working out can be risky. You might find it harder than usual to remain hydrated—and that can only lead to trouble. 

It Can Make Your Fever Worse

If you’re running a fever, it’s important to stay hydrated and rest your body. As we already mentioned, working out while feverish from the flu or grappling with a stomach bug can lead to dehydration. That increases your risk for a higher fever, leaving you feeling like garbage with a longer recovery time ahead. 

You’ll Tire Quicker

While some light exercise can be helpful for those experiencing mild congestion, athletes with more pronounced chest symptoms should stay away from the gym until symptoms have cleared. Working out with a productive cough can quickly leave you feeling breathless or fatigued.

It Can Lead to Injury

When you have a fever, your body doesn’t tend to behave as it normally does. Your strength, coordination, and endurance levels will likely differ from when you’re healthy. You will not be able to perform your typical workouts in the same manner that you are used to. Exercising in that condition can lead to injuries, even if you use proper form and remember to warm up and cool down.

When To Skip Your Workout

We recommend you speak to your doctor or coach about your specific symptoms. In the meantime, here are some rules of thumb:

Typically, experts say that it’s okay to exercise if your symptoms occur above the neck, as long as you feel well enough to do so. So, working out with a headache, ear infection, or stuffy nose doesn’t carry many risks. However, folks exhibiting symptoms below the neck are advised to avoid exercise until they feel better. For instance, if you are experiencing chest congestion or gastrointestinal distress, skip the gym. Focus on getting plenty of sleep for a speedy recovery instead!

If you need to take a few days off to recover from a cold, the Jack City crew is waiting when you’re feeling better. Not a Partner yet? Call (208) 999-1111 to learn more about how we can help you crush all your fitness goals!



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