Best & Worst Exercises To Do When Sick


Feeling a little under the weather despite your best efforts to stay healthy so far this year?

We know the feeling.

You may not have a full-blown cold or flu, but are feeling just ‘off’ enough to slow down a bit and struggle with your daily routine.

Like we said in our email this week, some light to moderate exercise may actually help to relieve some annoying symptoms that get us down.

But, exactly what kind of exercises are okay when you’re not 100% and when is it okay to exercise?

Have you ever heard of the “neck rule?” Basically, if your symptoms are above the neck—sneezing, sinus pressure, stuffy nose—then breaking a sweat is generally considered safe. Listen to your body, and consider the following best (and worst) workout options.



Walking is a great exercise any time – when you’re well and when you’re not. Get the heart rate up and blood pumping with a brisk, 20-minute walk outside (if possible). Walking will stimulate your body to take deep breaths which can help open up your sinus passages. If you are snowed in like most of the upper east coast, then maybe one of the other exercises would be better, so read on for more. 🙂




Gentle stretching, like that done in Yoga, may help relieve aches and pains related to colds and sinus infections. Choose a slower style of practice, like Hatha or Iyengar yoga, if you’re worried about overdoing it and don’t forget to say, “om” – humming has been shown to open up clogged nasal passages.



Whether you are rocking a Zumba class or hosting a dance party in your living room, dancing is a great, low impact workout to get your heart racing without putting too much stress on your joints (or aggravating a cold-related sinus headache). Take it easy if you aren’t feeling the greatest. Just listen to your body and go at your own pace. No need to do any head banging when your head is throbbing.




This is a tricky one as it can be a great workout for some and a not-so-great workout for others. Some people find that swimming is super refreshing and may help to open up airways. However, if you are really congested, you may want to skip swimming as it may be difficult to breathe and the chlorine may aggravate your symptoms. If it works for you then, by all means, dive in and swim some laps or engage in some water aerobics!




Biking is another tricky exercise. For some it is a great low impact workout, but for others, it can really dry out nasal passages and aggravate a sore throat or runny nose. Trust yourself. If biking isn’t helping to make you feel better, then you probably should find something else that does.

Some of the exercises you may want to stay away from while battling sickness are:


Anything at a gym or with a team

Think of it this way. Would you want to use weights, a treadmill, or elliptical after someone sneezed all over it or coughed into their hands before working out? If you are contagious, stay home and away from other healthy individuals. No need to infect anyone else just to get your workout in. Use some free weights at home or take advantage of the 25 ways to sneak in exercise from last week’s blog post!


marathonrunner.jpgEndurance running

If you are in the middle of training for a marathon, you may want to take it easy until you are feeling better. When you are sick or coming down with something, your body is already worn down. Wearing it out more by running long distances is not a good idea. While regular exercise on a daily basis helps to boost the immune system, high intensity exercising on a regular basis can have the opposite effect. So, lay low, get better and be careful not to make your symptoms worse.

Staying active while you’re under the weather is great if it doesn’t aggravate any symptoms you are having.

Again, listen to your body and if you are feeling worse after a workout, just take a break and try it again in a couple of days. There’s no need to make your illness worse just to burn a few calories.

Get better first and then get back into it. It won’t derail you for long.

Do you stick with your exercise regime even when you’re sick? What kinds of exercises do you take part in?

Let me know in the comments!

Yours in Health & Happiness,