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Exercising while sick? Know when it’s okay to work out and when to skip

Exercising while you are sick might not be the best thing to do. Your immunity takes a hit and it can be uncomfortable for you to exercise. Let's find out who can still exercise even if they are sick.
Exercising during sickness
Is exercising during illness a good or bad idea? Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 1 Apr 2023, 17:00 pm IST
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It’s hard to imagine sweating it out in a gym when you have high fever or runny nose. It doesn’t really sound enjoyable or the best thing to do. Yes, exercising during sickness seems to be something that should take a backseat till the time you recover. But if you are a fitness enthusiast, it can be hard to convince you to stop exercising. Turns out, there is a rule when it comes to exercising while you are sick. Read on to find out if exercising during sickness is good or not.

HealthShots connected with Dr Tushar Tayal, Consultant, Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram and transformational life coach Vaneeta Batra to know if you should exercise while you are sick.

exercising during sickness
Exercising and sickness don’t always go well. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Exercising and illness

When you are not well, your body needs to rest for recovery. Exercising during this period may delay the recovery, says Dr Tayal. To know whether you can exercise during sickness or not, you can follow the above-the-neck rule. He shared that if the symptoms are limited to your face – such as stuffy nose or sore throat – you can do mild exercises. But if the symptoms are below the neck – such as fever, diarrhea or excessive productive cough and wheezing – workout should be avoided.

Exercising when you have high fever is a big no

When you are down with fever, your immunity gets affected. Add heavy exercise, it can temporarily reduce the immunity which can aggravate the illness. The other thing is that when you exercise during an illness, your body’s resources are diverted to repairing and recovering from the exercise which ideally should be utilised in fighting the illness. So, strenuous exercise during an illness should be avoided, says Dr Tayal.

Here’s when you can exercise

Powering your way through a run or a dance class can make you feel great on a regular day. But it may not seem like the best idea when you have the sniffles and a cough or fever, says Batra. When you are sick, you should listen to your own body.

You can exercise if you want to work out and have the energy to do it or when the symptoms are mild. You should not exercise when you have high fever, your body aches, you have a bad cough, you have symptoms such as vomiting or rash or you have a cold along with other health concerns.

Exercises you can do when you have mild symptoms of illness

If symptoms are above the neck, you can consider the following workout options for exercising during illness.

1. Walking

A cold may affect your energy levels, so you may not feel like doing intense exercises. But even if you take out 20 minutes and walk, it can help you to get the benefits of regular exercise. Walking has many benefits and it may even help to improve your cold symptoms, as well, says Batra.

exercising during sickness
You can do light exercises if you are not too sick. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

2. Yoga

Yoga and breathing exercises may help boost immunity. Choose a slower style of practice like Hatha yoga or focus on restorative postures like child’s pose and legs up the wall.

3. Stretches and mobility exercises

Find an upright pole, fence or wall that you can use for support while leaning into some of those stretches and mobility exercises.


Keep an idea of your risk of weight-related issues.

Check BMI

4. Neck stretch

Neck stretch can relieve symptoms of a bad cold and reduce tension around the neck and chest, says Batra.

5. Standing forward bend

Standing forward bend improves blood flow, protects sinuses and relieves congestion in an easy manner.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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