Should You Be Working Out While Sick?


During the cold months of the year, your immune system is sometimes weakened, making you more susceptible to sniffles, sore throats, or common colds. 

Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but what if it happens if you’re in the middle of your running or bodyweight training plan?

See our tips for dealing with  common cold symptoms, recommendations about getting back to training after being sick, and don’t forget to check out our training plan at the end of the article:

Common Cold Symptoms

Before we start: What is the common cold, and what are the symptoms?

The common cold…

Also simply known as a cold, it affects your upper respiratory tract (nose, throat) and is caused by a viral infection. It’s usually harmless and might last for seven to 10 days. Even if you don’t need to worry about a cold, go see a doctor if symptoms don’t get better.(1)

Common cold symptoms can be:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headache

Please note:

To be safe and see if you’re really just suffering from a common cold and not COVID-19, take a test before you run outside or train in a gym or public space.

What to Consider When Exercising

Is it a good idea to keep training when being sick? Or is it better to take a break, so you don’t overstress your body or your heart? 

“As so often in life, the truth is in the details. When your body is busy fighting the common cold and speeding your recovery, training wouldn’t do your body any good. While it is true that exercise and sports strengthen your body’s defenses and immune system, this only applies to healthy bodies,” points out running expert Sascha Wingenfeld.

If all you have are the sniffles and no other symptoms, then a bit of exercise can do your body good. But make sure to pay attention to the following points:

  • The effort and intensity of your training session, such as running, should be very low. Keep reminding yourself to follow this rule. Under the circumstances, a fast walk might even be enough.
  • In winter, wear a scarf or a bandana over your mouth to protect yourself from cold air. That way you don’t breathe in the ice-cold air directly.
  • If it is too cold, you should think about doing an indoor sport for a change, working out in a gym or at home.
  • Drink more water than usual to keep your mucous membranes moist.
  • Make sure you get enough rest days. After your training, it is very important to get plenty of recovery time when you are not feeling 100%.
  • Dress warmer and change out of your sweaty clothes and into a dry outfit right after your workout.

Are you fighting flu-like symptoms such as fever or chills, cough, or a sore throat?

Then your immune system is already working full speed on your recovery. “In this case, any additional training would overstress your body,” explains Sascha. You run the risk of being sick longer and maybe even doing permanent damage to your body. Until your fever goes down and you really feel way better, rest is the name of the game

Please consider:

People taking medication often feel better and tend to return to their training schedule sooner. But you need to be careful about this. Often, you are still sick; it’s just that the medication is suppressing your symptoms, making you feel better.

“The more you train while you are sick, the worse your performance will be afterward. Due to the two-fold stress of healing your body and training, your body is overworked, and your performance will continue to decrease,” cautions expert Sascha. 

Treat yourself to a couple of days off instead of continuing to train without thinking. The more you take care of yourself, the faster you will be able to start training again.

5 Tips on How to Get Back to Running and Training After a Cold

Get back on your feet after a common cold:

  1. You should be symptom-free without medication for at least three days and feel 100% fit.
  2. You should take your first training session very easy: Choose a low-intensity run or workout, and short workout periods. Monitor the intensity of your workout using your heart rate.
  3. After the first training session, take another day off to recover. See how your body reacts to starting up again.
  4. Avoid high-intensity training for the same number of days you had to take a break due to illness. If you start training at a high intensity too soon, you can get sick again.
  5. See a sports medicine specialist for a check-up and get their OK before starting to train again.

Exercise After Being Sick: Training Plan to Get Back to Running

If you’ve been out of action for a while and are wondering how to get back into your running training, we’ve put together a 10-day training plan for you on our blog:

Training plan

Looking for more content on running and health issues? You might also be interested in our following articles:





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