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tired man working out while sick

Is Working Out While Sick Good or Bad? What You Need to Know

February 16, 2023

taylor picture
By: Taylor Ford


About 46.9% of adults aged 18 and over meet the physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity. Engaging in regular exercise is a great way to keep your body healthy. It not only keeps your weight in check and helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

While we all may workout and feel like a machine most days, at the end of the day we are still humans., and sickness can be inevitable. But is working out while sick good or bad? Keep reading to find out.

tired man hands on knees working out while sick

The Driven Mentality

As I'm writing this, I've been sick for the past two weeks. Why? Because I'm stubborn and have a hard time resting or relaxing...even when in reality it's probably better for me to do so. Constantly pushing and stressing our bodies can make you sick.  I've likely prolonged my common cold by continuing to run, hopefully you'll read my guidance below and learn when it's best to workout or not while you are sick.

Is Working Out While Sick Good or Bad?

When you’re sick, a speedy recovery is always the main goal. But it can be difficult to know when it’s OK to continue with your gym routine or take a few days off.

Generally, it isn’t recommended to work out when you’re sick. Physical exercise can increase inflammation and strain your immune system, prolonging your illness and delaying recovery. You should skip your workout if you’re experiencing symptoms below your neck, including:

  • Chest congestion
  • Stomach bug
  • Flu symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Productive cough
  • Fever

However, if your symptoms are above the neck, such as a runny nose or sore throat, it may be okay to engage in light exercises but only if you feel up to it. It’s important to work out at home during this time to reduce the spread of your illness to others.

Dangers of Exercising with Flu

Should you work out when sick with a cold? Exercising with the flu may not be a good idea, and here’s why:

Exacerbating Symptoms

Exercise can increase your heart rate and raise your body temperature. This can worsen symptoms of the flu, such as fever, cough, and body aches.

Weakened Immune System

When your body is fighting off an infection, it can cause inflammation and use up a lot of energy. This weakens your immune system. Working out can also temporarily suppress the immune system because it can cause physical stress on your body.


Flu symptoms, such as fever and diarrhea, can increase the risk of dehydration. Exercise can also worsen your dehydration when you are sick.

Prolonged Recovery

Exercising with the flu can prolong your recovery time. This can also delay your return to your normal workout routine.

How Long Should You Wait to Exercise After Being Sick?

Wait until you have fully recovered from your illness before returning to your regular exercise routine. This can take at least a few days, depending on the severity of your illness. Pay attention to how you feel and listen to your body.

If you’re unsure about when it’s safe to return to exercise after being sick, consult your doctor for guidance. When you get back to the gym, start with a low-intensity, shorter workout. Also, ensure you are well-hydrated while exercising.


Trust your body. I know this is a tough pill to swallow, but our mind and body are remarkably interconnected. Our intuition will likely tell us if we need rest, or if maybe getting our heart rate going a bit will raise our spirits and blood pumping.

man tired working out while sick infographic is it good to work out while sick?

Exercising When Sick FAQs

Thinking of working out when sick? Here are some of the frequently asked questions that people in your situation ask.

Should I exercise while sick with COVID?

The CDC recommends that individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 refrain from physical activity for about 10-14 days. This is because the virus is highly contagious. If you choose to workout you should do so at home and avoid interacting with others.

Is exercise good for the flu?

It depends, gentle activities such as stretching and walking can help you feel better, but avoid intense physical activity. And avoid interacting with others.

Should I lift weights with a cold?

No. Lifting weights while sick can stress your body and worsen your symptoms.

So, Should You Exercise If You Feel Run Down?

It all depends on the symptoms you’re experiencing. If symptoms are above the neck, it may be okay. But for symptoms below the neck, ensure you take a few days off.

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