Exercising When You’re Under the Weather

February 15, 2019

Is it safe to exercise when you’re sick? The answer depends on your symptoms and how sick you feel. 

Thirty minutes of regular exercise three to four times a week has been shown to raise immunity by raising T cell levels. T cells are one of the body’s first defenses against infection.1   To help yourself feel better and maintain healthy habits, know the best workouts to do when you’re under the weather.

Exercising With a Cold

Exercise is often OK if your symptoms are all “above the neck.” This might include runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat.

  • Consider reducing the intensity and length of your workout. 
  • Don't exercise if you have chest congestion, a hacking cough or upset stomach.
  • Don't exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or muscle aches.


Walking is great for clearing your sinuses, as you take deeper breaths when you walk, opening up your nasal passages.

  • A 15-minute jog burns about the same number of calories as a brisk half-hour walk.2
  • If walking—or any type of physical exertion—makes you feel worse instead of better, stop and focus on getting rest!

Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi

These forms of exercise are low-impact and can be done without pushing yourself too hard.

  • Yoga is perfect for meditation, staying flexible and even strength training.
  • Pilates helps control breathing, ensuring oxygen gets to the entire body.
  • Tai chi is a self-paced system of gentle exercise and stretching. It helps increase energy and stamina.

Light Weights

This type of exercise can be done at home so you won't be spreading germs and sharing your sickness with others.

  • High reps with low weights can build muscle.
  • Mix high and low reps, either in the same or different workouts, to stimulate muscle growth and prevent boredom.

Dynamic Stretching

Stretching is an important part of any exercise program. It’s low-impact, but still works your muscles.

  • Stretching after exercise benefits your range of motion and joints, and boosts circulation.
  • Some simple stretches to try when you’re sick:
    • Hamstring stretch
    • Gentle backbend
    • “Legs up the wall” yoga pose

1 https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/exercising-when-sick#2

2 https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20170504/walking-vs-running----which-is-better