Should You Work out When Sick?

It’s a common dilemma: you’ve been working hard to stick to your workout routine, but suddenly you wake up feeling sick. Your first instinct might be to power through and hit the gym, but is that really the best course of action? Here we’ll explore the question of whether you should work out when sick, and what factors you need to consider when making that decision.

The Importance of Rest and Recovery

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that rest and recovery are critical components of a healthy workout routine. When you exercise, you’re putting stress on your body, and during rest periods, your muscles can repair and grow stronger.

If you’re feeling under the weather, your body is already working hard to fight off whatever virus or infection is causing your symptoms. Adding the stress of a workout to the mix can put additional strain on your immune system and slow down your recovery.

Cecilie_Arcurs/ | Workout because you love your body, not because you hate it.

The Severity of Your Symptoms

Of course, not all illnesses are created equal. Some, like the common cold or mild flu, may leave you feeling tired and achy but still able to go about your daily activities. Others, like more severe cases of the flu or respiratory infections, may leave you bedridden for days. When deciding whether to work out when sick, it’s important to consider the severity of your symptoms.

You can modify your workout routine if you’re experiencing a mild illness and feel up to it. However, if your symptoms are more severe, focusing on rest and recovery is best until you feel better.

OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY/ GETTY IMAGES | The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.

The Type of Workout You Have Planned

Another important factor to consider is the type of workout you have planned. If you’re planning a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session or a heavy weightlifting session, you may consider rescheduling your workout until you feel better. These workouts put significant stress on your body, and if you’re already fighting an illness, it can be too much to handle.

On the other hand, if you have a low-impact yoga class or a leisurely walk planned, you may be able to go ahead with your workout as long as you listen to your body and make modifications as needed.

Tina Magrabi/ Leafwell | Push yourself because no one else will do it for you.

The Risk of Spreading Illness

Finally, it’s important to consider the risk of spreading illness to others when deciding whether to work out when sick. If you’re experiencing symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or a runny nose, you may be contagious and could spread illness to others at the gym. Even if you’re not contagious, the stress of a workout can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to catching additional illnesses from others.

If you decide to work out when sick, practice good hygiene, like washing your hands frequently and wiping down equipment before and after use.