Can You Still Work out If You're Sick?

Any athlete who cares about themselves will understand that sometimes having to suspend training or re-schedule activities because of an illness can be annoying. So, it's good to know in which cases you can continue with the plan and in which cases your obligation is to rest.
Can You Still Work out If You're Sick?

Last update: 12 April, 2019

This type of question is frequent when dealing with viral infections or the flu. There are many athletes who would rather not stop their workout for any reason, but this is something you can’t always do. So, can you still work out if you’re sick?

Some illnesses, such as colds, have a “standard” duration of about 10 days. In these cases, exercising wisely won’t make any substantial difference. Although it can have an attenuating effect, making the affected person feel better momentarily.

In practice, stopping your physical activities because of sickness may have the opposite result. Some people become depressed if they can’t train when they planned to. This can further weaken their immune systems, leading to additional complications.

To train or not to train? That’s the dilemma

With mild symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, and coughing, working out should not be a major problem, as long as you do it at moderate intensity.

Woman working out even if she is sick

It’s about the body eliminating what’s affecting it through sweat. But this shouldn’t imply an excessive effort for muscles or joints. This isn’t the time to run a marathon or try to increase your effort levels.

When you train under these conditions, you should be more aware of your hydration levels. Drinking plenty of liquids, mainly water and energy drinks, will allow you to recover electrolytes lost through sweat more quickly. Experts also recommend taking anti-viral medication and hot drinks.

In cases of severe bone pain, an upset stomach, vomiting, muscle weakness or serious complications, total rest is necessary. These are signs that something in your body isn’t right, and you have to rest.

Working out with a fever: yes or no?

This is another frequent question among athletes and fitness people. Can you work out with a fever? No matter how much you want to “sweat” and not lose your routine, when your body temperature is above 46 degrees Fahrenheit, working out  isn’t a good idea.

Sick woman skipping her workout routine to recover

A fever is your body’s natural response to fighting viruses, infections and the presence of any foreign element. Its appearance isn’t only a sign that you should rest, at least as long as it lasts, but also that a visit to a trusted doctor is the way forward. Of course, be sure to take precautions to lower your body temperature as soon as possible.

Most of your energy should be focused on helping the body in the process of fighting disease and recovery. That’s why it’s not convenient to force yourself into making additional effort to carry out physical activities, which in those conditions, are unnecessary.

It’s possible that physical exercises sometimes also involve greater stress, another factor that hinders or even slows down the functioning of your immune system.

When you’re sick and have a fever, it’s best to rest. In addition, you should prevent high body temperatures. Before talking to a doctor you trust, putting cool compresses on your head can serve as a temporary palliative. In extreme cases, a cold shower may be the best solution.

What to do while you’re sick

If you don’t want to suspend exercise, it’s recommendable to do moderate intensity exercises. Activities such as cycling, jogging or walking are recommended. These are practices that are also very helpful to improve your lung capacity and cardiovascular function.

Couple walking on the park to work out even if they are sick

All physical activity should begin smoothly and progressively. Letting your own body determine if you can move forward and eventually increase the intensity.

In any case, it’s advisable to perform routines that don’t exceed 30 minutes in duration when you’re sick. Half an hour of exercise is enough time to obtain benefits, without demanding too much from your body.

For outdoor sports, consider the risks of counterproductive weather, such as blizzards, rain or extreme temperatures.

What to wear if you work out while you’re sick?

Clothing must be made of thermal and breathable fabrics that allow you to sweat without inconvenience. Keep your body dry and warm at all times.

During winter, even some days of spring or fall, you have to cover your throat. But if the temperature’s very low, you should also protect your mouth and nostrils. You could wear gloves and protect your head under a hat.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.