Is it Unhealthy to Work Out When You’re Sick?

Are you the type of a maniac who actually wants to go to the gym when you are sick? If this is you, we have two questions for you that we sincerely hope you won’t get offended by– 1) what’s wrong with you? and 2) no, REALLY, what’s wrong with you?

Sorry if you feel at all attacked, but we believe that we are speaking for 99.9% of the rest of the planet when we question you as to why doing crunches in a crowded, stuffy gym sounds appealing to you when your sinuses are clogged and your throat is throbbing.

Now, admittedly, we are just a tad bit jealous of your eagerness to exercise, even when you’re likely fighting the urge to crawl back into bed. It’s an admirable quality to possess; we can’t see you through your screen, but you undoubtedly have quite the tight 6-pack hiding under that shirt.

But, we digress…

What we’re here to do today is settle a score. We’re here to tell you once and for all the truth about whether or not it’s healthy to exercise when you’re sick. Apparently, this is a long-running argument in the health and fitness community (not exactly our jam, as you’ve likely surmised!), but we’ve finally found the research to settle the score.

Exciting, right? Let’s dive into it!

Should you be working out when you’re sick?

Lucky for us, there have actually been various studies conducted on this subject, and they all deliver a similar answer to the question of “Should I work out when I’m sick?”

Ready for it?

The answer is: “it depends.”

Ok, so it’s not a reply that elicits a particularly passionate, polarizing response, but it is based on facts. In a study conducted by Ball State University, entitled “The effect of exercise training on the severity and duration of a viral upper-respiratory illness,” we learn that moderate exercise training, like a common gym work out, has no measurable effect on an upper-respiratory illness.

Good news, right?

Not so fast–just because you can exercise freely with an upper-respiratory illness doesn’t mean that you’re completely fine to hit the gym just yet. This is because “upper-respiratory” refers only to the nose, throat, and upper airways. This means that, if you are hurting or experiencing symptoms any lower than your neck, then you are suffering from something else.

In this case, you should absolutely wait it out and rest until you get better. If you are experiencing chest congestion, breathlessness can trigger painful coughing fits and if your pain is stomach or bowel-related then you DEFINITELY shouldn’t be pushing yourself.

Now, when it comes to prevention, the Ball State University study does reveal that daily, moderate aerobic exercise can decrease your respiratory infections by 50%, which means that keeping a regular workout schedule is key for maintaining your health, even if you do end up skipping the gym when you’re sick.

And, on one last note. PLEASE, don’t be the person who goes to the gym when you’re on day 3 of your cold. Gyms are pretty much Petrie dishes as it is. We don’t need to be exposed to any more germs!

We can’t wait to hear your take on this exercise question answered. Do you work out when you’re sick? If so, do you think it makes you feel better? How do you protect yourself from germs at the gym?