If you have a mild sniffle, you’re probably good to go. But working out with a flu, stomach bug, or phlegmy cough isn’t advisable.

You’re feeling a bit under the weather, but you don’t want to lose the momentum of your fitness routine. So, should you push through and hit the gym, or is it better to rest and let your body heal? Let’s break it down!

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Sleep is the best way to help your body recover quickly when you’re sick. But if you’re determined to rise and grind, you could use the “neck check” to decide whether to lace up those sneakers or stay in bed.

Many sports doctors use this theory to say that if your symptoms are above the neck — sniffles, sore throat, or a mild headache — you’re generally good to go for a light workout. But if you’re dealing with chest congestion, a hacking or juicy cough, diarrhea, a fever, or an upset stomach, it’s better to take some time to catch up on your Netflix watchlist.

Big disclaimer: there’s little scientific evidence behind the “neck check,” so use your best judgment.

If you’re going with the above-the-neck rule, exercising with the following symptoms is probably okay.

Mild cold

Going super hard if you have a mild cold is not a good idea. But a light workout, like a walk or a chill Peloton sesh, can be a great way to stay active without overdoing it. Stretching or light yoga might also do the trick.

Minor earache

Stick to light activities like walking for most earaches. Avoid intense workouts like weightlifting, yoga, or pilates, as they can throw off your balance and put pressure on your sinuses, exacerbating the pain.

Mild sore throat

Light and short workouts are likely fine if your sore throat is mild and lacks fever, cough, or swallowing issues. Remember to stay hydrated — it can ease your sore throat and is beneficial during exercise.

Stuffy nose

Light activities like brisk walks or gentle bike rides can help for allergy-related stuffy noses. If your nose is blocked, stick to very light activities, focusing on breathing. Skip workouts if you have a fever, chest congestion, or a productive cough with phlegm until you’re symptom-free.

If you’re experiencing the following symptoms, the workout can wait.


Working out with a fever increases dehydration risk and can worsen the fever. Plus, fever saps your muscle strength and coordination, making you more prone to injuries. So, do yourself a favor and skip the workout until you’re back to normal.


An occasional cough is your body’s way of clearing out irritants, but a frequent or phlegmy cough could signal a respiratory infection like a cold, flu, or even pneumonia or asthma. While a tickle-induced cough isn’t a gym deal-breaker, a persistent one is.

Stomach bug

Diarrhea and vomiting can dehydrate you, and physical activity only makes that dehydration worse. Feeling weak? That’s a recipe for injury. Plus, stomach bugs are highly contagious. If you feel antsy, stick to light stretching or yoga at home.


The flu hits your respiratory system hard, with symptoms like fever, chills, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, headache, cough, and congestion. If you’ve got the flu, take it easy and give your body some well-earned R&R.

Once symptom-free, ease back into exercise gradually. Start with less intense workouts to avoid overdoing it. As your symptoms fade, you can gradually return to normal activity.

Regular exercise may shorten recovery time, particularly for acute respiratory infections. Listen to your body’s signals to gauge your strength. If you’re still contagious, opt for home or outdoor workouts, so you don’t spread those germs to fellow gym-goers.

You probably shouldn’t workout if you have:

  • a fever
  • a bad cough
  • stomach bug
  • flu

You may be able to exercise if you’re dealing with something minor, such as a:

  • mild cold
  • minor earache
  • mild sore throat
  • stuffy nose

P.S. Check in with a healthcare provider if you’re unsure when it’s safe to start exercising again.