Should I workout when I’m sick?

Should I workout when I’m sick?

It’s that time of year. The sniffles, the flu, what the hell COVID-19?!, the random stomach bugs, the head colds… they’re going around! A lot of times we get the question, “Should I workout when I’m sick?” Let’s just jump right into it.

If you are too sick to go to work, you are too sick to workout.

Period. If you have to take the day off, you are too sick to workout. There are a couple of reasons here.

  1. It’s unsafe. You aren’t functioning at your highest level, and you could put yourself or others at risk when performing exercises (kind of like driving while sleepy… sure it’s legal, but it’s definitely not safe).
  2. You don’t want to get other people sick. You know how you feel when that person who is so sick is coughing and sneezing all over the office? Don’t cough and sneeze all over the gym! Your gym friends will miss you, but also appreciate you taking the time to yourself to get better!
  3. Minimal intensity levels. Intensity is our gateway to positive workouts that will get us one step closer to our goals. When you’re very sick, you can’t even workout at a reasonably high intensity level. Better stay at home, snuggle up with Netflix, and get better.

That being said, there are some instances where working out while feeling under the weather is just fine.

Do the Neck Check

The neck check? What’s that? When you’re trying to decide if a workout is going to be a good thing for you or not, we need to identify where the sickness is coming from. If it’s above the neck (head cold, sniffles, etc), it’s probably “ok” to workout… (although with the recent pandemic, we still recommend staying at home). A study conducted by Ball State University actually injected subjects with the common cold, and had them workout. Some subjects said they had no negative effects after working out, while other subjects actually said they felt better after the workout.  Note: these studies were done in controlled environment. If you feel like you are contagious, you should never put other people at risk of becoming sick. 

If you are feeling sickness BELOW the neck (bronchitis symptoms, chest pains, drainage), it is important that you REST. Cardiovascular exertion will not be beneficial to your recovery time (and you are more than likely contagious if your sickness is below the neck!).

As always, use your best judgment and err on the side of caution. If you had to miss work, you need to skip the gym.

-Clark Hibbs


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