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Should You Still Work Out When You're Sick?

by Heather Marr, CPT - April 02, 2021

There's nothing worse than waking up not feeling your best when you had a plan to go to the gym before work and crush your workout. Now you're faced with a choice: power through or rest up.

You might've heard the myth that you can sweat out an illness, but that's simply not true. Some days, taking a break from the gym can actually be more beneficial to your health. First, you need to identify the source of your discomfort. Is it allergies, a cold, the flu or something else? Then, you can decide if you should still work out or if you're too sick.

Keep in mind, the common cold and the flu are caused by different viruses, and although they do share some similarities, the flu is more severe. Symptoms of the common cold are generally milder and resolve themselves quicker – often within 7 to 10 days. Cold symptoms tend to come on gradually, and may include a sore throat, runny nose, headache, coughing and sneezing.

While many symptoms of a cold and the flu do overlap, flu symptoms tend to come on suddenly. They are usually also accompanied by a fever, chills and extreme fatigue that can hang around for weeks. If you're one of the unlucky enough to gets hit with one of the viruses, when should you back off your training regime?

Vital Note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.

Should You Still Exercise When You're Sick?

Generally, if you're otherwise in good health, follow the "above the neck" rule. If your symptoms are all above the neck, and resemble that of a cold or allergies — and you still feel up to it, you can workout, but should consider dialing back the intensity and performing light to moderate activity, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is not the time to head to the gym and hit a heavy leg day or perform a HIIT training session.

Use common sense. If at any point during your dialed back workout, you start to feel worse or unwell, stop immediately. Consider your workout over. Period.

If your symptoms are all above the neck, but you don’t feel up to a workout regardless, then don’t do one. Listen to your body and rest.  

Is It Better To Rest Or Work Out When Sick?

If you're experiencing symptoms that are above and below the neck — such as those associated with the flu — then it's time to rest. If you have a fever, you need to skip the gym. Once your fever has broken and you're feeling better and up to it, it's still important to dial back on intensity at the gym. And, depending on your illness, you should check in with your doctor before resuming intense exercise

Leave your ego at home and embrace lower intensity activities. No one wants to mess with their programming and skip training, but making yourself more ill, and consequently ending up with a longer time away from the gym is not an intelligent training practice. Proceed with using common sense so you’re not doing more harm than good.

"To train or not to train?" really boils down to using sound judgement. Taking time away from your workouts to get better is not going to undo all your gains or decondition you. Being respectful of those around you should be a consideration. You do not want to spread highly contagious viruses to those training at the gym when you should have been home resting. Be respectful of your neighbor and your limits.

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