Can You Still Work Out When You're Sick?

When you're not feeling great, it can be tough to know if you should stay in bed all day or if you should get up and head to work — and deciding if you should still get your workout in can be even trickier. If you have a case of the sniffles or a mild headache, getting out for a workout won't hurt. But especially now, it's critical to pay attention to signs that suggest that you should take a day off rather than powering through your workout as planned. 

There are times when you absolutely should take time off: For instance, working out if you have COVID-19 is not advised by medical experts. So if you suspect that you may have been exposed to COVID-19, absolutely put a pause on your workout until you're cleared by a medical professional.

The same applies to anytime your temperature rises above normal or you start to exhibit more flu-like symptoms. "Never exercise with flu or fever," Mariane Fahlman, a professor of health education at Wayne State University, told Time. 

But if you don't have a fever and your symptoms are above the neck, meaning a runny nose, mild earache, or mild headache but no sore throat, most experts agree that continuing with light exercise is fine (via Healthline). It's important to use common sense: If you're in pain and can't focus on your workout, it's time to hit pause on the treadmill and seek medical attention.

What should you do as a workout when you're sick?

Because we know that regular exercise has been linked to illness prevention, it's a good idea to add in moderate exercise a few times a week when possible. However, hard exercise — like a CrossFit workout — can have the opposite effect of suppressing your immune system (via the Journal of Athletic Training). Dialing a workout down is the best solution if you have a cold and still feel like you want to exercise. Avoid high intensity and hard workouts. For most cold-like symptoms, a walk or — if you're a regular runner — an easy jog are great options. Alternatively, a short, easy bike ride or spin on a stationary bike inside rather than a hard run or tough spin class are good options. 

The same applies as you recover from the flu or any more serious illness: Begin with a few easy, short, and light workouts for the first week or two back, and take your time as you rebuild. A slow build back will help ensure that you're fully recovered so that you can continue training stronger than ever. 

Lastly, if you're mostly recovered from a stomach bug or food poisoning but want to stay near a bathroom just in case, consider a workout that keeps you in the comfort of your own home (and a short walk from the toilet!). Look for a yoga video to do in your living room, and make sure that you're staying hydrated.