Can I Work Out When I’m Sick?

You just started a new exercise program and haven’t missed a day. Maybe you’re three weeks into a marathon training program. Or perhaps you’ve been hitting the gym five times a week. Whatever the case, you’ve just come down with a bug and you’re wondering if it’s okay to lace up those shoes or head to that yoga class. It can be hard to know when it’s okay to work out and when it’s not. Below are five questions to ask yourself to determine if you should suck it up or sit it out.

Do I Have a Fever?  

Ask yourself if you have a fever. If you don’t know, check with an at-home thermometer. You can purchase one from any drug store. If you have a fever, you need to sit it out. Exercise raises your internal body temperature. If it’s already high due to a fever you can raise your internal body temperature to a dangerously high level and risk serious illness or injury.

Rule of Thumb: If your fever’s over 101, leave your workout undone.

Where Are My Symptoms Located?  

In medicine there’s a rule of thumb called the neck rule. if your symptoms are above the neck, such as head congestion, a runny nose, or a sore throat, you can probably get away with working out. If, however, you have symptoms below the neck, such as a cough, chest congestion, nausea, or an achy body, it’s best to sit it out.

Rule of Thumb: If it’s below your head, stay in bed.

Am I Already Fit?  

If you have been in training for a long time, have been exercising for years, or are otherwise in reasonably fit shape, you may actually feel worse by skipping a day of working out than you would if you muscled through it. If, on the other hand, you are relatively new to working out and aren’t very fit, it may be a better idea to wait until you feel better before working out. Doing so will help your body heal without putting it under the additional stress of working out.

Rule of Thumb: If you’re not fit, skip it.

How Do I Feel?  

Of course, sometime it doesn’t matter how sick you are or aren’t, you just don’t feel like working out. If you’re able to do your daily activities reasonably well without feeling miserable, you can probably tolerate a workout. But if you can barely lift your head off the pillow or feel worn out just doing dishes, forget the gym until you’re better.

Rule of Thumb: Let how you feel seal the deal.

Will I Be Around Others?  

If you’re going to a yoga class, public pool, or gym to do your workout, you should probably skip working out while sick out of courtesy. Even if you feel reasonably well, going to a public place to work out when you know you’re sick puts everyone else at risk. Using a stationary bike at home or running on streets around your home would be a better option for workouts if you’re sick.

Rule of Thumb: If you can spread it, forget it.

Asking yourself these questions can help you decide whether working out while sick is okay, or if you could put yourself or others at risk by doing so. Use common sense and listen to your body. If you’re not sure whether you can handle a workout, it’s probably best to wait until you’re all better (or close to it) before working out.


HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators. The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.

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