top of page
  • Writer's pictureLuke Nelson

Should you exercise when sick?

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

As the cold and flu season is upon us, many of you will, unfortunately, get sick this winter, and will be wondering if it’s a good idea to skip or complete a workout.

Whilst exercise can benefit the immune system, hard training can suppress immune function, leaving you susceptible to opportunistic infections. Getting sick and missing weeks of training due to an illness is a real setback for any athlete. So should you push on & train, or rest up & recover?

Whilst there is no rule that fits everyone and every instance, a simple rule is the “neck check”

“The neck check”

If it's in the neck and above (throat and head) then you can do light to moderate-intensity exercise, but if below the neck it's best to rest.

So you can generally exercise when you are suffering from:

  • mild sore throat

  • runny or stuffy nose

  • earache

  • sneezing

  • watery eyes

  • mild headache

With minor illnesses, light exercise can actually enhance the immune system and shorten the duration of your illness.

Best to avoid exercise when below the neck with symptoms such as:

  • coughing

  • fatigue and tiredness

  • congestion or tight chest

  • high temperature/fever

  • chills

  • Stomach bug

  • muscle aches

  • diarrhea

When should you return to exercise post-illness?

It is best to wait for 1 day after any below-the-neck symptoms have resolved before resuming training. The first day of training post-illness should be a light session (recovery pace run/ride, or reduce weights in the gym). Continue to train at a recovery pace until all above-the-neck symptoms disappear.

If any symptoms start to return, then cease training and rest, as trying to resume too early can prolong recovery.

Additional tips when returning to exercise post-illness:

  • Focus on recovery post-exercise: sleep is key!

  • Just remember that when you are unwell you are contagious, so consider your teammates/training partners, I’m pretty sure they don’t want to fall sick

  • Avoid strenuous cardio exercise in the cold air, as this can aggravate your lungs and airways

  • Stay warm

  • Ensure adequate hydration

  • Supplementing a nutritious diet with Vitamin C, Zinc and probiotics may assist your immune system in fighting the infection

  • Listen to your body! If it doesn’t feel right to be exercising, then rest!

So hopefully you can now use this information to help you decide if you should rest or train! For further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us!


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page