When you’re feeling under the weather, you might be tempted to hit the gym and “sweat it out.” But is exercising when sick the best thing for your body (and the people around you)?

The answer: it depends.

Let’s look at this a little more closely.

Is Exercising When Sick a Good Idea?

Whether or not it’s okay for you to hit the gym when you’re not feeling well depends on the type of symptoms you’re experiencing.

According to the Mayo Clinic, if your symptoms are above the neck, then it’s probably safe to train. This would include signs of the common cold, like a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, or a slightly sore throat.

However, if your symptoms are below the neck — like chest congestion, a hacking cough, or an upset belly — you should stay home. You should also steer clear of training if you have a fever (since you wouldn’t want to raise your temperature further), you’re feeling especially fatigued, or you’re experiencing widespread muscle aches.

Symptoms aside, and above all else, you should listen to your body. Even if your symptoms are above the neck, if you’re feeling pretty lousy and want nothing more than to collapse on the couch, maybe that’s what you should do. It’s okay to take time off to heal. If your body is sending you a message, it’s for a reason.

If you do plan to hit the gym, you might still consider scaling back a little. For example, you could reduce the time you spend training, or pull back on the intensity (for example, the amount of weight you’re lifting).

Another option is to treat this as an active rest day, where you stay moving with something low-impact, like rowing, walking, yoga, or swimming.

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Be Mindful of Pushing the Boundaries

We know that especially in the sport of functional fitness, we’re almost always pushing the limits. So, when you’re sick, you might want to soldier on and power through it. In a way, it makes you feel tough and heroic.

But we’d caution you against this if you have a fever or you’re experiencing symptoms below the neck.

If you’re contagious and you go work out around other people, then you’re putting them at risk, too. Plus, you body needs to be able to focus 100% on healing. If you’re training, you’re diverting some of that energy toward your fitness, taking away valuable resources that your body needs to recover.

Plus, you’re already in a weakened state. This isn’t the time to be breaking your body down further with your programming.

If you train under the wrong conditions, you could end up making yourself sicker and prolonging your recovery.

It’s okay to rest instead of exercising when sick! Take a few days or a week to recuperate, and your body will thank you for it.

Learn more about how to best handle your recovery.