Should you workout when you’re sick?

Should you workout when you’re sick?

Hey Guys!

Every year, come fall and winter, y’all always ask me…”Should I still work out when I am sick?”

There’s nothing worse than being on a great workout streak, only to be derailed by a cold or the flu. It’s hard to know what to do because your mind says “GYM” but your body says “stay in bed and binge watch ‘Unreal’ on Hulu. (Ugh so good btw, you guys should watch it! Kinda raunchy but really, really addicting! It’s about how a reality TV is actually made and all the drama that happens OFF SCREEN!)

Could it be a bad thing to work out when you’re sick? Could it make you sick for longer? Or should you try sweating it out?

Turns out, there’s a little science on this and it involves your immune response to light vs. heavy exercise, and the type of illness you have.

First off, your body will give you signals on whether or not exercise is even possible, or a good idea, when you’re sick. Obviously if you’ve got a fever, are throwing up, have diarrhea or body aches, it’s not a good idea to hit the gym or go for a run, because physically, your body is fighting an infection or virus pretty seriously. It’s also not that nice to spread those kinds of germs around a public place! Any time your body is in a weakened state, it’s best to rest, eat a bland diet and return to a strengthened state before working out; it can cause further problems if you ignore your body’s clear signals! Fortunately, people don’t come down with the flu as frequently as the common cold, so it really is okay to take the week off to let yourself fully heal since it only happens once a year, at most.

So what about the more frequent common cold? The sore throats, runny noses, coughs and congestion? It’s always best to let your body be your guide! You must learn this! YOU ARE YOUR BEST DOCTOR.

If every bone in your body is begging you to stay home, listen!!! But if you’re on the fence and just mildly uncomfortable the best advice is to get a bit of a sweat on!

Notice I said, ‘a bit.’

The amount and vigor matter, because intense workouts signal a stress response in the body. When you’re healthy, your body adapts! That’s what makes you faster, stronger and able to handle more the longer you train. When you’re sick, a strenuous workout can be a little too much for your body to handle without becoming exhausted, and making your cold even worse, or last longer.

Your immune system is what fights off colds, so stressing it out doesn’t, ‘sweat it out,’ it simply makes your body work harder to recover from both the workout and the cold. The perfect workout is something you enjoy doing that gets your heart rate up a little, but not too high. You want to feel invigorated afterwards, not totally spent!

So POP Pilates = good choice.

PIIT28 = not so much (until you’re feeling better).

The most recommended exercises when you have a cold are:

  1. Walking
  2. Yoga or Pilates
  3. Bike Riding or Self-Paced Cycling
  4. Light Weight, High Rep Circuit Training
  5. StairMaster (on a light setting)

Try these slow and relaxing videos if you’re at home:

None of the activities I mentioned above compromise your immune system, yet they do provide those happy-feeling endorphins, increase circulation, improve digestion, release stress and tension (which both suppress the immune system) and aid with sleep, which is something you need to speed up the recovery process. Stay light to moderate the first several days of your cold, only moving to more intense levels when you’re feeling about 90% or better. And finally…it goes without saying, but always wipe down your equipment with sanitizer, and wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading your illness to others, but also to avoid picking up another bug when you’re already compromised.

Stay well my lovelies!


31 thoughts on “Should you workout when you’re sick?”

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  1. Garage Gym Planner says:

    A perfect post which suits me! I often fall sick..

  2. Hey,Thanks for sharing…. Video is just awesome

  3. Fernanda Riveron says:

    You are the best Cassey!! thanks for all the advises!! i’m just recovering from a really bad cold that made me stayed in bed for 4 days and now i’m feeling better but i had that dilemma of start working out today or wait more days, but with this post now i see which exercises i can do!

    Love you <3

  4. M S says:

    I’ve recently read that if the sickness is from the chest up (like heavy head, stuffed nose, sneezing, etc) you can exercise (like yoga, pilates and such). If it is from the chest down (diarrhea, vomiting, cramps all over, etc), you should rest. I found it interesting actually as it relates to cold vs flu. Actually exercising when with a cold helps (being careful and exercising at home, of course), but with a flu just makes it worst, as said here in the post, the body is fighting that nasty virus! 🙂

  5. Aimee says:

    I believe you expressed the idea very well. But people should not exercise for at least a week after feeling back to normal. Do not exercise while “a little sick” please. I’m a med student by the way. It does not matter that you miss two weeks of your routine. First start healthy and then stay fit.

  6. When I have a cold I still workout most of the time because it helps relieve the congestion in my nose!

  7. Katie says:

    I’m not sick, but tangentially related I guess — so I seriously injured my rib a couple of weeks ago (I’m getting an X-ray done this weekend to see if it’s fractured, ack! :/) and haven’t been doing my normal workouts because of the obvious pain and also just not wanting to interfere with my body healing. But I have so much pent up energy and am dying to move! Obviously you’re not a doctor, but do you think it would be ok for me to do some of your leg videos/others that would involve me keeping my ribcage still?

  8. Annie says:

    Hey Cassey, <3
    I was ill for one month. I was really sad cause doctor said "no workouts, no fitness"
    Now I´m doing for the second time Beginners calendar to get fit.
    But I have one question. Whas should I do if I can´t do all five videos per day with normal month calendar? Should I just do three or two? My body is weak and I´m really tired and totally K.O.
    Love u!

    1. Wenxin says:

      Hey there, I think you should do whatever you can, and slowly adding in the videos as you feel stronger 🙂 Maybe if you can start with 3 per day then do that, choose the ones you like and on the last day of the week, or any day you feel more powerful, add another video! Its totally ok & fitness, like what Cassey says, is a journey!

      Like for the first 2 weeks, 3 per day, then next 2 weeks you could up a video for alternate days and etc. Hope this helps! Stretching is good too if you feel weak!

  9. Ally says:

    Hi Cassey, I was wondering what I should do when I fall ill in the middle of one of your calendars I’ve been working through. Should I skip the days I’ve been ill (though that seems to make little sense), start from where I left off, or go back a few days to ease myself back into it? I came down in the middle of your calendar with a chest infection and bad fever which has only broken yesterday. I said to myself that I’d have one more day to make sure the fever won’t come back and then start up again tomorrow fully rested. My activity level has been basically zero for the last week since I had trouble breathing and became dizzy when even taking light walks. Thanks in advance for any advice! P.S. you’ve been a massive inspiration to me and for the first time in a long time I’ve found something that keeps me motivated to keep on going – that being your channel of course!

  10. Kimora Chanel says:

    Cassey you bring so much clarity to my life about working out and staying fit! It has always been a struggle of mines to stay committed to working out usually because something happens, like I get sick, take a break for my body to recover and just have a hard time getting back into the rhythm. But this post was helpful (I now have tools to keep the rhythm going ;P), you’re so helpful and inspiration and I really appreciate that about you and your spirit!

    1. blogilates says:

      You are so soooo welcome!

  11. Dee says:

    Usually I stay home when I’m sick, mostly because I get better quicker if I get the rest, and secondly, I hate it when people come to training while they’re sick, so as a rule of thumb, I don’t do it. As a side note, the kind of training we do requires us to pair up with one another, so when I partner up with someone who is sneezing and coughing, he/she is spreading those germs around, especially when we have to be in close proximity with each other, and have physical contact. So if I’m sick but I still feel like I can still work out, then I’ll do my own exercises at home, otherwise I take the time to put my feet up, rest, and get well.

    1. blogilates says:

      Yup, rest is SO necessary!

  12. Rachel says:

    Just what I was starting to think about… Took a sick day today and I was wondering if I should keep my routine going. Think I’ll do a little light yoga instead!

  13. KD says:

    I always wonder about this! Every time i get back into working out, I get sick and then it’s back to square one. Thanks Cassey 🙂


    I’ve been looking for stuff about should I workout when I’m sick and finally I get the answer ! Thank you Cassey 🙂 I’ve been sick since like 2 weeks and I never knew when I should workout or not. I did 4 days of break and now I soo ready to burn that fat and sculpt that beautiful body again ! yaaay

  15. I never work out if I’m sick, I have learned my lesson. The one time I tried it I almost passed out.

  16. JenniferN says:

    Love love love UnReal!

  17. Kasia says:

    I’m coming down with a cold and I’m not feeling well… I did some low-impact total body workout (no cardio, no jumping) two days ago, yesterday was my rest day and today I did workouts from calendar 🙂 I’ll see tomorrow how I feel 😉 Hopefully, I’ll be able to do some HIIT, pick up my dumbbells or go running soon 🙂

  18. Hannah Joy says:

    Thank you so much, Cassey. You’re a
    lifesaver. 🙂

    1. blogilates says:

      Thank YOU for being here!

  19. RJ Cash says:

    Thanks Cassy! Good to have in mind! Thankfully I have a pretty good immune system! Thanks for all u do!!

    1. blogilates says:

      Good you healthy bean! 🙂 Me too…I rarely get sick!

      1. RJ Cash says:

        Lol yes I am blessed! Blessed times two to have a personal trainer like you!