Working Out with a Cold: How to Stay Active and Respect Your Body

Posted on October 17th, 2023.

When that persistent tickle in your throat and the sniffles start to set in, it's natural to wonder whether you should hit the gym or go for that morning run. We've all been there, debating whether working out with a cold is a good idea. After all, staying active is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but so is listening to your body.

Today, we'll explore the dos and don'ts of working out when you're feeling under the weather. So, let's dive right in!

Should You Work Out When Sick?

Working out when you're sick can be a tricky decision. On one hand, exercise can boost your immune system and make you feel better. On the other hand, pushing yourself too hard can worsen your condition and lead to a longer recovery. The key is to find a balance that respects your body's needs while keeping you active.

How to Stay Active and Respect Your Body While Working out With a Cold

Listen to Your Body

Before making any decisions, assess how you're feeling. If your symptoms are mostly above the neck, like a runny nose, sneezing, or a mild sore throat, it's generally safe to engage in light to moderate exercise. However, if your symptoms include fever, body aches, chest congestion, or fatigue, it's best to rest and allow your body to heal.

Lower the Intensity

When you decide to work out with a cold, it's crucial to dial down the intensity. Swap that high-intensity HIIT class for a gentle yoga session or a brisk walk. Lower-intensity exercises help maintain your fitness without putting too much strain on your immune system.

Stay Hydrated and Rested

Regardless of whether you choose to exercise, staying hydrated is essential when you're under the weather. It helps your body fight off the infection and aids in a quicker recovery. Adequate rest is equally important, so make sure to get enough sleep to support your immune system.

Be Mindful of Others

If you decide to hit the gym or attend a group fitness class while sick, be considerate of those around you. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and wiping down equipment after use to prevent the spread of germs.

When to Skip Your Workout

Sometimes, the best choice is to skip your workout altogether. If your body is telling you it needs rest, it's crucial to listen.

Here's a list of situations when it's best to skip your workout when you have a cold:

  • Fever: If your body temperature is elevated due to a fever, it's a clear sign that your body is actively fighting off an infection. In this case, it's best to rest and allow your immune system to work without the added stress of exercise.
  • Body Aches and Fatigue: When you experience widespread body aches and excessive fatigue, it's a sign that your body needs rest to recover. Intense physical activity can exacerbate these symptoms and prolong your illness.
  • Chest Congestion: If your cold has settled in your chest and you're experiencing coughing, wheezing, or significant chest congestion, it's advisable to avoid strenuous exercise. Exertion can worsen respiratory discomfort.
  • Severe Sore Throat: A severe sore throat, especially when accompanied by swollen glands, can make it uncomfortable to swallow, let alone engage in physical activity. Give your throat the rest it needs to heal.
  • Persistent Cough: A persistent, productive cough can be a sign of a deeper respiratory issue. Exercising vigorously with a cough can be hard on your airways and potentially lead to complications.
  • General Malaise: If you feel generally unwell, with symptoms like dizziness, nausea, or extreme weakness, it's a good indication that your body needs a break. Pushing through these feelings can be counterproductive to your recovery.
  • Lack of Energy: If you lack the energy and motivation to work out, it's a clear signal from your body that it's not ready for exercise. Forcing yourself to work out when you're mentally and physically drained can lead to poor form and potential injuries.
  • Doctor's Advice: If you've consulted a healthcare professional and they've recommended rest or advised against exercise during your illness, it's essential to follow their guidance.
  • Contagiousness: If your cold is highly contagious, it's considerate to skip your workout to prevent spreading the illness to others at the gym or in a group fitness class.
  • In the Early Stages: It's often best to rest in the initial days of a cold when symptoms are most severe. As you begin to feel better, you can gradually reintroduce light exercise if you feel up to it.


In the end, the decision of whether to work out with a cold boils down to listening to your body. Pay close attention to your symptoms and adjust your workout intensity accordingly. Staying active can help boost your immune system and make you feel better, but it's equally important to rest when needed.

At Goal Patrol - Hitting Your Personal Best Life, we understand the importance of staying active and respecting your body's signals. Our team of dedicated life coaches and personal trainers can provide you with expert guidance on maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. If you have any questions or need support with fitness training, we've got you covered. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at [email protected] for more information about our services.

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