Healthy Living

Updated: Surviving a Sick Day

Asian woman sick in bed looking at a thermometer and holding ice pack to foreheadFirst things first: we’re sorry you’re sick! Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like you’re finally in a healthy groove only to have it spoiled by getting sick. Being sick is never a good thing, but being sick when you’re doing your part to get or stay healthy just seems like fate’s way of punching you in the face.

If you’re a woman, we understand that taking a sick day isn’t something you take lightly. There are too many people depending on you to just take the day off and stay in bed. So if you are taking a sick day, we know your symptoms are severe.

If you’re a man, we’re sorry about that cold!

When to Stay Home

woman dressed in black curled up in the fetal position laying on the bathroom floor by the toilet

Sometimes it’s possible to keep up with your workout routine while sick, but sometimes, it’s just not in the cards. Whatever it is that’s knocked you down, we want you to know we’re here for you. We want to help keep you on on track with your weight loss goals while you’re laid up in bed and not let a stupid sickness ruin everything you’ve been working so hard to achieve.

Missing a workout is never fun, especially when you’re committed to a new lifestyle and working hard to lose weight. Even though it’s hard to say no to a workout, there are a few red flags that you should never ignore:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Chest Congestion
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Body Aches (Sorry, this doesn’t include sore muscles. Those might make your workout hard, but they don’t give you a free pass).
  • Shortness of Breath (Time for another apology: brief bouts of shortness of breath due to exercise don’t count as sickness. They just count as a good workout, so no free pass here either).

Basically anything from the neck down needs to be taken seriously and needs to be given time to get better. Anything from the neck up, you’re fine. It might not be easy or pretty, but a workout with these symptoms won’t have adverse effects on your health.

Negative Effects of Exercising When Sick

The Sweat Effect:

Do you sweat when you exercise? We hope so. After all, that’s a good thing… when you’re not sick.

When you’re sick, it can actually cause even more problems than those you’re already struggling with. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself down. If your body needs to be cooled down, that means you are heating it up. If it is already overheated due to a fever, heating it up even more really isn’t a great idea and could end up being dangerous.

Sweating also causes you to lose water, and being sick often causes dehydration. Losing water while dehydrated? You guessed it: that can be dangerous too.

Germ Swap:

This one should go without saying, but when you’re sick, stay away from the gym! You usually have the potential of making others sick too, and I bet you want to keep your friends at the gym! Be polite and stay home.

On top of that, gyms aren’t exactly known for their germ-free environment to begin with. The last thing you need is to pick up another nasty bug when your immune system is already compromised.

Prolonging the Illness:

If you’re sick with something more than a cold, the best thing you can do for yourself is rest. If you try to push through it and exercise, there’s a good chance you could prolong your illness and make your recovery time even longer.

Recovery Time Is Important

You might be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” or “Why can’t I push through it?”

The answer is simple: Your body needs time to recover.

Fitness expert Eric Stevens has some sound advice for making the most of your sick days:

“When it comes to the final word on being sick and whether you should exercise, it comes down to three words: rest, reflect, and recover. Do that.”

It turn’s out that he’s on to something:


This one’s kind of a no-brainer. Everyone knows that resting up is good for just about any ailment. This is especially true when it comes to helping your body heal. If you have to take a day off, put rest to the test and see what a difference a day of rest can make.


Just because you can’t work out doesn’t mean you can’t think about your health and fitness goals and concerns.

Use this time to help plan out your upcoming workouts and set new goals. See where you’re coming up short and find a way to recommit yourself. Look into a local fitness event. Sign up for a new gym class. Make a new meal plan. Research new smoothie recipes.

The possibilities are endless, and thinking of ways to motivate yourself is a great use of your downtime. Don’t forget to take time to look back at where you’ve come from and where you’re going, and make sure to think about all of the great things you’ve accomplished.


Resting and reflecting really help with this one, but it’s also important to do everything you can to help yourself recover as quickly as possible. If you think you need to see a doctor, don’t put it off until your symptoms get worse. Make sure to take any appropriate medications, and most importantly, listen to your body. It’s the best guide to help you know when it’s time to get back in the swing of things.

Prevention Attention

African American woman washing her hands in stainless steel sink

Since we don’t want to see you down and out again, it’s time to start thinking about prevention. The website Training Peaks offers helpful guidelines to endurance athletes on preventing illness. We’ve adapted them for all the average Janes and Joes out there who are just trying to stay fit:

  • Keep your nutrition on point.
  • Take your vitamins.
  • Wash hands regularly (and carry sanitizer).
  • Try not to touch your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Don’t share food or drinks with others.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Minimize stress.

A little prevention will go a long way in making sure you don’t have to skip the gym in the future.

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Once you start feeling better, it’s important to stage a slow and smart comeback. You don’t want to put yourself back in bed again by doing too much too soon. Test the waters on your first day back with a short 15-minute workout, then slowly build back up to where you left off. If you feel any symptoms returning, make sure to back off for a few more days. When all is said and done, a few sick days will do little to derail your long-term health, fitness, and weight loss goals, so don’t let them stress you out too much. Just go with the flow and know that once you kick whatever it is that ails you, you can use all that pent up energy to go and kick some serious butt!

Feeling Better? It’s time to make up for those missed days. Join our trainers in the Ideal Shape Up Challenge:

Join the IdealShape Up Challlenge


Chelsea Ratcliff

Chelsea Ratcliff

Writer and expert

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