2022 blog

should I work out if I’m sick?

With the school year back in full swing, fall weather beginning to take over, and flu season approaching – and fast! – you may have started to feel that tell-tale tickle in your throat creeping up.

Nobody likes to be sick and left feeling miserable; whether it be a common cold, seasonal flu, viral infection, or the latest strain of COVID-19. But when feeling sick completely upends your life and all the healthy routines you’ve worked so hard to cultivate, it can add a whole new level of frustration, and there may be a temptation to fight through and try to stick to your exercise program amidst the sniffles.

In fact, evidence shows that a consistent moderate-physical activity exercise program can effectively strengthen your immune system, which reduces the chances of getting sick and the severity of the symptoms when you do get sick, as well as making recovery much faster. Additionally, exercise releases hormones in your body that are designed to fight stressors on the body, which can aid in fighting off viral infections quickly and effectively.

So does working out when feeling terrible show dedication that would surely brand you as a certified fitness icon, or is it actually worse for your body to try to push through instead of taking that extra nap?

There is no black and white answer; as experts agree that the best approach is to listen to your body and give it what it needs – whether it be an added rest day or two, or a gentle workout to stick to your exercise routine. Your body will let you know exactly what it needs – just be sure to listen!

the best approach is to listen to your body and give it what it needs – whether it be an added rest day or two, or a gentle workout to stick to your exercise routine.

Still on the fence about that workout sesh? Review our list of DO’s & DON’Ts Exercise Guidelines to help you determine the best next steps:

DO’s & DON’Ts of Exercising While Sick

  • DON’T workout if you are:
    -coughing persistently or with -phlegm
    -experiencing shortness of breath
    -experiencing chest pain
  • DON’T workout if you have a fever or body aches
  • DON’T workout if you have nausea or diarrhea
  • DON’T workout if you are experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness
  • DON’T go to public workout spaces if you are contagious
  • DO workout if your symptoms are mild:
    -runny or sniffly nose
    -stuffy nose
    -mild sore throat
    -ear infection
  • DO take it easy
  • DO listen to your body
  • DO make sure to get extra rest – even if it means skipping the workout
  • DO replenish with extra fluids and nutrient-dense foods

Above the Neck Symptom Check

When in doubt, use the “above the neck” symptom check. If your symptoms are all “above the neck,” such as runny or sniffly nose, sneezing, teary eyes, headache, etc.; a light to moderate exercise bout may do you good! Exercise can help to open the nasal passages, clearing congestion or tension headaches to help with symptom control.

If your symptoms are mainly “below the neck,” as with a cough you feel in your chest or a phlegm-producing cough, or a stomach bug, it’s recommended to skip the workout and get some extra rest instead!

Whether you skip the workout while you recover or you decide you are well enough to work through it, make sure to take your time easing back into your pre-sickness routine. Spend a couple days working out at a lighter pace or load than usual; this means if you would typically run a couple miles, go for a nice jog or brisk walk instead. Take the time to take it easy until your body has fully recover to avoid the risk of getting sick again!

tfc Approved Sick Day Workouts

  • Go for a walk
  • Meditate
    • bonus: hang in the sauna!
  • Foam Roll
  • Stretch
  • Gentle yoga / restorative yoga
  • Swimming
  • Light jogging
  • Leisure-to-moderate pace bicycling

Need more workout ideas? Check out our Instagram, join a group class, or contact us to get started!


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