Fitness Fun

5 Common Sense Rules for Exercising when Sick

Ahhh… choooooooooo. Doesn’t it seem like we always get sick right at the worst times?

Like when we launch into a new exercise routine or start training for an athletic event?

Sometimes there’s just no avoiding a cold during sniffle season. If you work in an office building, have school-aged kids, or ever go in public, you’re practically doomed to catch something.

While getting sick might be inevitable, it doesn’t have to send you back to square one in your fitness regimen.

So is it healthy to exercise when sick?

Exercising when you’re under the weather can be a fine idea—it just depends on your ailment and the type of exercise you plan to do. Many people find that exercise actually helps them feel better.

But how do you know for sure? Follow these few common sense rules and you’ll be sure to find the answer that’s right for you.

5 Common Sense Rules for Exercising When Sick

1.The Fever Rule


Fever means stay away.

This should be common sense but if you’re running a fever, the answer is always no.

Stay home, rest up, hydrate, and wait to get your sweat on until you’re sitting at a comfortable 98.6 degrees.

If you exercise with a fever you run the risk of raising your body temperature even more, which in turn has the potential to make you even sicker.

2.The “Neck Check Rule

As a general rule of thumb, if your symptoms are above the neck, you’re good to go.

Anything else and you want to stay home and take the time to get better.

Runny nose? Congestion? Sore throat?

You’re fine. A workout won’t make things worse and it might be just what you need to shake the sickness.

Chills? Body aches? Tummy troubles?

Take a sick day. Give your body a chance to heal itself before pushing it to its limits again.

3.The Gym Rule

hotel gym workout for vacation weight loss

Stay away from the gym…PLEASE!

Unless your gym goals include making everyone at the gym hate you, it’s best to skip it.

You might be well enough to exercise, but you’re still sick enough to share your germs. This is a case where common courtesy should win out.

Go for a bike ride, walk/run a mile or two, or try an at-home workout instead.

4.The Brain Rule

The best tool you have to help you decide whether or not to workout is sitting right above your congested sinuses and right between your plugged up ears.

You’ve got a brain so use it!

Take a personal inventory of what you really think is possible and then go for it. You might surprise yourself… and if you don’t that’s okay too.

You can always listen to that brain of yours and stop mid-workout if you know you’re pushing yourself too far.

5.The Take It Easy Rule

A woman lying on the couch sick

Just because you can work out doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy for you.

It’s important to remember that your body isn’t at 100 percent, so you shouldn’t expect your workout to be at 100 percent either.

Ease up when you’re sick and don’t get discouraged when things feel harder than they normally do.

That’s just part of being sick.

Sweating It Out

Ryan Andrews of Precision Nutrition gives you a great day by day guide to help you exercise (by yourself and preferably at home) through any illness as long as you’re following the rules:

  • Day 1: Only low-intensity exercises. These are the exercises that do something to get you moving but don’t do much to raise your heart rate or make you sweat. Consider going for a walk or leisurely bike ride. If that’s not your thing, try doing a few push-ups, sit-ups or air squats and see if you feel good enough for a few more.
  • Day 2: Move up to ‘light exercise’ mode. Feel free to raise your heart rate and sweat a little bit. Try to limit your total workout time to 30-45 minutes.
  • Day 3: If you’re feeling better or the same, up your workout time to 45-60 minutes of moderate exercise. Try a faster walk, run or bike ride. Give a new workout DVD a try. Yoga and pilates are also great exercises when you’re trying to stick with moderate intensity.
  • Day 4 and Beyond: If you’re not feeling better by now, cancel your workout and call the doctor. If you are feeling better, stick with 45-60 minutes of moderate exercise until you’re back to 100 percent.


Being sick is no fun, and even though it can get in the way of your workout routine, it’s important to remember that you won’t be sick forever and that a rest day (or two or even ten) never kept anyone from living a healthy lifestyle.

Depending on your sickness, you may gain a few pounds and you may lose a few pounds, but as long as you keep your mind in the right place and get back on track with your diet and exercise program once you recover, your sick days won’t ever stop your weight loss.

Don’t stress about keeping your weight loss on point when sick. IdealPlan makes it easy to keep focused on your weight loss goals: 


Chelsea Ratcliff

Chelsea Ratcliff

Writer and expert

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