Should you exercise when you’re sick?

It’s that time of year…sniffles, upper-respiratory tract infections, cough, congestion….Sick Woman. Flu. Woman Caught Cold. Sneezing into Tissue

I often get the question, “Should I workout when I’m sick?”

And of course…the answer is, “it depends.”

Here is a quick run down to determine whether working out is going to potentially help or hurt when you’re feeling under the weather.

#1 – Understand what’s happening (inside) your body when you’re sick
In simple terms, when you are sick your body has already undergone some sort of stress where the body has to unleash its stress response in order to heal.

#2 – Understand that “working out” also is a stress on your body
When you engage in exercise where your heart rate is significantly elevated, you’re breathing heavy, sweating and taxing your muscles, this actually induces a stress response from your body (i.e. stress hormones are released including the stress-hormone cortisol). This acute stress for most of us is healthy and over time our body adapts making us stronger and more resilient – even strengthening our immune systems.

HOWEVER, when your body has already released the stress response in order to fight an infection, virus, etc. doing a high-intensity workout may worsen or delay your body’s ability to get better.

#3 – Understand there is a difference between “working out” and “purposeful movement”
If you’re not feeling 100%, a good idea is to focus on “purposeful movement” rather than “working out”…go for an easy walk (outside if possible), yoga, low-intensity bike ride, series of stretches and movements to slightly elevate the heart rate.

Put off your butt-kicking workouts for when you feel better…


– If you’re contagious (especially if you’re going to a gym/public workout facility)
– If you’re experiencing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms
– If you have the chills, running a fever, body aches, extreme malaise, serious bouts of coughing or sneezing

WHEN “PURPOSEFUL MOVEMENT” IS A GOOD BET (versus higher-intensity workouts)
– If your symptoms are “above the neck” (i.e. congestion, sinus headaches)
– You’re not experiencing body aches or extreme malaise and have a sense that movement will help you feel better

– Ease back in to your workout routine…remember, your body has just gone through some major work to get you feeling better
– Don’t expect your first workout to be your best performance
– Ease back in to intensity
– Allow more recovery time in between workouts after you get back in to it, this will keep you stronger, healthier longer


Too many women fear that taking off from their workout routine will reverse all the progress or results they’ve experienced so they push themselves to workout … often making matters worse.

The healthy mindset is one that focuses on what is best for your body…focus on having the confidence that once you’re back to feeling well you can seamlessly get right back on track.

Rest and recovery is often our best medicine!

**Remember these are ONLY guidelines. Of critical importance is that you listen to your body and speak with your doctor if necessary**


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