Should You Work Out While Sick?

Posted by Beni Cook
Should you work out while sick? Here’s our dos and don’ts.

Just like most things in the health and fitness industry when it comes to exercising while sick everyone has an opinion. Some say you should do nothing but rest, with vegging out on the couch and midday naps being the best cure. Others insist that a good work out will “get things moving” and help you get over your illness faster. So, who’s right? Well, it depends on how sick you are, and what kind of exercise you’re doing.


How our immune systems operate while sick

Whether you’re coming down with the flu, have a throat or ear infection, or are dealing with a general cold, getting sick is all too common. The good news is that our immune systems are a built-in defence mechanism that helps us to ward off infection and recover from illness. But did you know that stress and strain on the body can impact your immune system, especially while you’re unwell?

When your body is fighting an infection, any additional stress hinders the healing process. Tough workouts cause extra stress on the body, which is why strenuous movement may cause you to feel worse if you’re unwell. Research shows that even in healthy people prolonged vigorous exercise can make you susceptible to infection – that’s why endurance athletes often come down with something after competing.

High-intensity work outs are a definite no-no when you’re unwell. Not only will they negatively impact your immune system, but you’re also likely to feel pretty awful after an intense workout even when only slightly unwell. For more serious illnesses, you could end up damaging your body and making your sickness worse. And if you were planning on going to the gym, no one wants to catch your infection! If you’re sick, the answer is simple – your usual workouts probably aren’t going to do you any good. But that doesn’t mean you have to do nothing.


What can you do while sick?

While we definitely recommend taking it easy when you’re under the weather, that doesn’t mean you need to be a couch potato. Gentle movement is usually ok with mild illnesses, and in some cases can even help you to feel better.

Examples of light exercise and movement include:
(Please note that isolation rules apply to anyone testing positive to Covid-19 or awaiting test results)

Going for a walk, especially outside
Low intensity cycling
Tai Chi

If you have a minor sore throat, runny nose, or congestion, keeping moving may help you feel a bit better, or at least not make you feel worse. However, it’s all about listening to your body. If you have a pounding headache, a fever, or the barest movement launches you into a coughing fit, it’s time to rest up. Exercising while sick is really intuitive – if you’re unsure, it’s best to talk to your doctor and follow their recommendations.

Another tip to note is that you should ease back into your usual workouts. If you were sick for a week, take a week to slowly build up your fitness regime again. Jumping straight back into a full workout can send you back downhill if you’re not fully recovered, and will only make your recovery longer. Pay attention to your symptoms, listen to your body, and don’t overdo it, and you’ll be back in the gym in no time!


Do you need a hand formulating a personal fitness regime? Our expert team of personal trainers love working with new and existing clients to help them reach their health and fitness goals. Contact us today and see how our personal trainers can help you.

Beni Cook
Beni Cook is the Head Personal Trainer and Founder of Beyond Best. Beni is a health and fitness expert who develops individualised exercise programs that will meet your own short and long-term objectives, while providing information, advice and encouragement that will enable you to lead your healthiest life, every day.

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