Should you train when you are ill?

Should you train when you are ill?

This is a question I get asked a lot as a trainer.  When a client is feeling unwell they often want to train but are not sure whether they should or not.  There are so many variables that this will depend on as we will explore below. 

With the current health climate of the world and people being particularly wary of Covid-19 I would suggest it's probably not the best idea to train when you are sick even if you feel you are up to it.

Even though training is only allowed outside currently, if you have a cough or cold it's probably best to avoid exercise especially in public places.  No one wants you running past them coughing and spluttering or at a park work out sneezing on the kit.

We all have to take some social responsibility and make sure we are taking care to look after our health and the health of those around us. 

Pre Covid-19 depending on how long a client had been sick for and what kind of sickness it was I would offer the following advice. 

Use the above the neck rule - If you have symptoms above the neck, sneezing, sore throat, blocked nose, ear ache etc then you are probably okay to do light exercise.

If you have symptoms below this such as nausea, fever, body aches or chesty coughs you may want to avoid exercise. 

Having said the above if you have to ask whether you should train or not the answer is often yes you can.  You should know if you are too sick to train as your body will not want you to do it.  You might just not have the energy to train even if you want to.  We all need to learn to listen to our own bodies a bit more and understand the signs.

If you after using the guide above but you are unsure and you still want to train i would suggest pulling back on the intensity that you work out at.  Monitor your performance during the workout and adjust the intensity as you go depending on how you feel.  And don't be afraid to leave the gym part way through a session if you don't feel right.

A gentle workout can help to ‘sweat it out’ and can also help to clear congestion in the sinuses so could be beneficial for you.  A gentle bike ride, a walk or practicing Qigong can also help to boost the immune system.

In terms of motivation and just feeling good you may want to do a gentle session to stick with your routine and keep you feeling positive.

As your sickness is nearing the end and you start to feel better you can resume exercise again but gradually build up the intensity.  Returning to full intensity too soon can suppress the immune system and prolong the recovery time. 

In summary, use some common sense and listen to your body to decide whether or not you can train.  If you are back to the gym or a social workout setting make sure you take care to clean equipment properly after use to reduce the risk of spreading the sickness to others. 


Arron Collins-Thomas

Founder of TONIQ

Do you have your own guidelines as to when you train or don't due to illness? Let us know in the comments below. Share this with someone who you know would benefit from reading this. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other.