Ask A Personal Trainer: Working out when Sick


Bio:  Julie R. is an ACE certified personal trainer. Her goal is to offer simple and effective advice to help inspire others to live an active and healthy life. She works and lives in Boston, MA with her husband and baby girl.

With flu season here, I often find clients get sick and fall off the workout wagon for weeks, and sometime months. Here are a few guidelines to prevent a cold or sickness from derailing your exercise goals.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a good rule of thumb is that if cold symptoms are “above the neck” (runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, etc), it is okay to continue your exercise routine. You may want to take your intensity down a notch, for example if you normally run, you could try jogging at a slower pace, or even walking.
If symptoms are “below the neck” (chest congestion, hacking cough, upset stomach), it is best to take a few days off. Exercise should also be avoided if you have a fever, extreme fatigue or widespread muscle aches.

The bottom line is you want to listen to your body. If it is telling you to take a break, do it. However, while you are resting you want to be sure to drink lots of fluids and eat a healthy diet. It is not an excuse to sit on the couch and eat chips. While you are resting you can plan out a few workouts for when you are feeling better. Start slow when getting back into your routine, this could mean just going for a 30 minute walk your first few days back. The key is to start moving as soon as you are feeling better, don’t let too much time go by, this is when people tend to lose their routines.

Stay healthy!

*Always consult your physician or health care provider before beginning any nutrition or exercise program.

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  1. I am so glad you posted this information. I am a workout fanatic and will often workout even when I’m sick. I have wondered about whether it is best to take a few days off or not. I will definitely try to follow these guidelines. At least I do take a down a notch or two when I’m not feeling well.

  2. Thanks for this article! I try to workout 6 days/week and have wondered if it’s ok if I still workout when under the weather, or if I’m doing my body more harm. Like Ericka’s comment, if I have a bit of nasal congestion, working out is a natural decongestant for me and makes me feel better.

  3. I do listen to my body! But I had no idea that the symptoms were labeled above/below the neck. This is a great guide, because I have gone to the gym with my tummy not well and paid dearly for it. Thanks for a great article!

  4. This is an awesome article! I have always just taken it easy because that’s what people tell me to do, but I always felt like I could at least go for a walk still!

  5. Good information; I’ve often wondered if I should “push through a sickness” to do my workout routine. I totally agree with getting back at it when you feel better. It’s so easy to fall out of the habit of working out.