Should You Exercise When You're Sick?

woman coughing next to workout gearSometimes it’s hard to know whether or not it’s a good idea to exercise when you’re sick. On the one hand, you don’t want to be “lazy” or lose the habit, but on the other, you certainly don’t want to make yourself feel worse by working out when you should be resting and recovering. Here are some guidelines on how to handle exercising while sick.

“Above the neck” symptoms

Generally speaking, if your symptoms are all above the neck, like a sore throat or a runny nose, you’re likely fine to work out. For the sake of others, you should consider exercising at home rather than spreading your germs at the gym, and you may need to hold back a bit on the intensity—it’s hard to go at full capacity if you can’t breathe well through your nose, for example.

“Below the neck” symptoms

If your symptoms aren’t confined to your head, then it might be best to take a day or two off. If you just want to do something, you could limit yourself to a walk around the block or easy stretching exercises at home. Let’s look at some specifics.

“Stomach” issues

If you’re vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, then it’s doubtful that you even feel capable of exercising. Even if you do, you have to be very careful about dehydration, so don’t do anything that makes you sweat.


Fevers can also make you more prone to dehydration. Even worse, when your body temperature is already high, working out could heat you up enough to risk dangerous complications like myocarditis—a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart muscle.

Coughing, wheezing, chest pain

Any sort of symptoms in your lungs and chest will only be made worse by exercise that gets your heart rate and breathing rate up.

Muscle aches, fatigue

Exercising with flu-like symptoms is likely to keep you sicker, longer. Let your rundown body recover fully before hitting the gym.