Quick Question: Is It Bad to Work Out When You're Sick?

woman stretching in the gym

You’ve finally found a fitness routine that works for you—congrats. And then, annoyingly, you get sick. Ughhh. Should you power through and hit the gym anyway or should you sit this one out? Let’s dive in.

As a very general rule of thumb, if your symptoms are above the neck, you’re good to work out. If they’re below the neck, hold off until you feel better.

Examples of “above the neck” illnesses? A cold, runny nose or mild sore throat. “Below the neck” symptoms include chest congestion, body aches or an upset stomach. Researchers at Ball State University found that moderate exercise has no effect on the duration or severity of the common cold. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine concluded that moderate aerobic exercise—30 to 45 minutes a day of activities like walking, biking or running—can more than halve your risk for respiratory infections.

In general, listen to your body and don’t overextend yourself. If you feel up to a workout, go for it. If you feel really crappy, skipping the gym for a day or two is no big deal in the grand scheme of things.

And please, if you do decide to work out, be considerate of those around you. (By which we mean, cover your mouth when you sneeze and clean everything you touch with antibacterial wipes.)

But as usual, if you’re unsure about whether or not to exert yourself, consult your doctor.

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...