Tweeter button
Facebook button

Working Out While Sick?

Follow Me on PinterestPin It

Are your sinus’s killing you?  Do you have a terrible headache?  Is your nose running?  Are you sneezing?  If so, you’re probably sick right.  Scanning social media this time of year you inevitably read post after post of people suffering from these and other symptoms.  What can you do about?  If your trying to get healthy and fit how do you cope with these problems.  Doing some research I’ve found that there are many different opinions on the subject of working out while your sick.  So, I’ve posted two different perspective for you to read and then you can decide for yourself which is best for you.  Me personally, working out when I’m sick helps me feel better and lessen my overall symptoms, but others may not have the same reaction.


Perspective #1 – No, you should NOT workout when you are sick.

By Steve Edwards Shut it down and get some rest, Amel. It will help you get well sooner and it might end up improving your results in the long term.

Woman Running

When you’re sick, your body uses its recovery properties to fight the illness. When you exercise, you use these same properties to recover. To your body, trying to exercise when you’re sick is effectively the same thing as overtraining. You won’t be able to recover from exercise, rendering it useless, as well as increasing the risk of making your illness worse and lengthening your downtime. Believe it or not, there are actually a couple of upsides to being sick. It both raises your metabolism and heightens your immune response, meaning that you can eat more than normal and not gain weight. Your immune system also releases performance-enhancing hormones that both fight the infection and help you heal microtrauma incurred during your training program. Because of these factors, when I’m sick during a training cycle I consider it my recovery week. Here is my protocol: At the onset of symptoms I bump my vitamin C and zinc levels, drink a ton of water, and sleep as much as possible. If I catch it early enough, I’ll miss the cold. However, your body plays an insidious trick on you at the onset of a cold. Before you feel symptoms, your adrenal system kick-starts the immune response, which often results in a great workout—too good. Prior to a competition, if an athlete sets a personal record or looks too strong, their coach will often shut them down in anticipation of potential pending illness. If a workout feels spectacular out of the blue, consider backing off and adding immune-boosting supplements to your regimen. Once I know I’m sick, I rest as much as I possibly can. I clear my social schedule, work as little as possible, and shelve any projects (even mental ones) that can wait. My diet becomes very clean. No coffee, alcohol, sugar, junk, and I drink a ton of water. Also, I eat a lot of small meals all day long. Your body needs nutrients when it’s sick but doesn’t want the energy burden of digesting large meals.
 Woman Doing YogaWhen the cold has turned the corner I begin moving more. I’ll do low-level aerobic exercise and light yoga—restorative exercise. I’ll build this gradually as I feel better, so that when the symptoms are gone I can hit it hard, right where I left off. When I follow my protocol strictly it will actually aid my fitness program in the long run. Finally, there are times when you’re sick when hard exercise might help, but it’s rare. The most common is near the end of a cold, where the infection has run its course but you still have minor symptoms. You might have heard someone say, “I blew the cold out of my system” with exercise. Just be careful you don’t try this too early or you’ll get worse. Patience may not be your favorite part of training, but sometimes you gotta not do what you gotta not do.

Perspective #2 – Yes, you should workout when you are sick

Are you sniffling, sneezing, coughing or does your body just ache?  As the winter approaches, so does the cold and flu season.  The question is “Should I workout if I’m sick?”  The answer is yes and no.  If you’re like most people, you probably don’t relish the thought of lacing up your sneakers and completing an hour of P90x or Insanity when you have a cold or flu.  But those who persevere when they’re sick and don’t break their exercise routine may be on to something.  Some experts argue that moderate exercise can actually have a beneficial effect on cold symptoms, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.  In the following post I’m going to discuss the benefits of working out if you’re sick and the few times you might be too sick to workout and rest may be your best medicine.

One thing that experts do not argue is that gyms are breeding grounds for germs and virus’s.  I remember the days of working out in the gym and having to clean equipment that the previous person had used and left sweaty and dirty.  Its one of the many reasons why I like to workout at home.  I workout on equipment that I know is cleaned properly and has nobody’s sweat on it but mine!  CLICK HERE to read my post, “Why workout at home”.

Why should you workout when you are sick?

The latest research suggests that those that workout and eat a proper diet will catch fewer colds than their sedentary counterparts.  I’m a perfect example of this, since starting P90X in March of 2009 I have been sick only once, and that only lasted a few hours.  This from a guy who spent most of the winter taking sore throat and cold medicines daily.  Performing light or moderate exercise helps increase blood flow throughout the body which is beneficial for healing and can help with light soreness that you may be experiencing from your symptoms.   There is not denying the fact that when you perform light to moderate exercise while under the weather that you feel better and more energized.  Beachbody has many high intensity programs to transform your body, however, they also have a large selection of workout programs that can be used to lower the intensity or modify when you are sick.

For example if your using P90X and feeling under the weather, then you probably don’t want to do plyometrics.  Maybe you can substitute it with Cardio X or Yoga or Kenpo X.  These workouts are less intense but can still help you achieve maximum results.  For Insanity, I suggest one of the recovery workouts that again will provide you with an effective workout with out raising the intensity level to the point that your going to increase your risk of getting sicker.

When should I skip the workout?

Not everyone who feels under the weather should exercise, however.  Experts like to cite a rule of thumb known as the “neck rule.”  If your symptoms are all located above your neck (stuffy nose, scratchy throat, headache), you almost certainly have a head cold and working out is still an option.  If, on the other hand, you have a fever, congestion in your chest and lungs, or feel achy, it is probably a sign of flu, bronchitis, or another more serious ailment, and you should rest up. (Exercising with a fever will make you more vulnerable to dehydration, among other ill effects.)

A fever puts too much stress on the heart, which already is beating faster because of the higher body temperature. If you’re suffering from chest congestion, coughing and shortness of breath, you also shouldn’t work out. And exercising with a stomach ache will probably make you feel worse.

My suggestion is to use some common sense, you know your body better than anybody, just don’t let a little runny nose be an excuse for not working out.  People should listen to their bodies. If you are sick, your body is telling you something is wrong.  One suggestion would be to cut the exercise duration and intensity if your symptoms continue.   ”The above-the-neck rule is a good one, but I’d say severe above-the-neck symptoms warrant cessation from regular exercise until the symptoms abate,” says Jeffrey Woods, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  ”Even Olympic athletes need a day or two off every once in a while.”

One myth is the you can sweat out germs and toxins.  We know today that its just not true, however, low levels of exercise increase endorphins and benefit the body.  Be careful with an intense workout like Insanity which may actually create high levels of endorphins and can wear down your immune system.

Is also a good idea to ease back into a full workout.  If you’ve been sick and taken a few day of to recovery your level of fitness will be slightly reduced.  Take your time and slowly work back to 100%.

Here’s a few situations where I would not be working out while sick if I have these symptoms-

  • As I mentioned earlier, if I have a fever.
  • Chest congestion.
  • Any stomach issues.
  • If I had muscle aches everywhere (I’m talking about the muscle aches you get when you have the flu).

Of course it would be impossible for me to list every single symptom that would cause me to not workout, but these are the most common.


Make Me Your FREE Coach. Just click the logo.

*Note – If you have a “dud” coach and would like to change coaches, the process to do so is very simple. Simply email and tell them that you would like “Coach Todd Greene (Coach ID #99963) at ” as your coach. Please CC me as well so I can ensure to follow-up.


 And 2 favors that I ask:

1) If you like the hard work I put into writing my articles and videos, PLEASE help me out by sharing them. Click the share links below them and share them on FB, twitter, etc.  It really helps me get more exposure and grow TeamInternallyFit!
2) Also, remember that the way I benefit from being your coach is that I earn a commission from any Beachbody products that you purchase, as long as you buy them through my site,, (If you buy from the plain Beachbody site I get no credit). It helps with the amount of time I spend answering all your questions and helping you out. Thank you! I really appreciate it! 


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: