Chiropractic care to keep you fit, active and healthy


Should I exercise when I’m sick?

| By Dr Debbie Tan (Chiropractor)

So you go to the gym regularly to exercise and maintain your health. However, there may be some days when you are not feeling well and have caught a cold/flu. You heard that it is great to sweat it out or that it is best to get some rest. So what do you do?

It really depends on what you have. If your cold comes with a slight fever, then it is recommended for you to rest instead of exercising. The fever gives you an elevated body temperature which helps to control infection and disease.1 If your condition worsens, it will be best to see a general practitioner. Normal fever rates are anything above 37 °C.2

Generally, if your cold symptoms are located above the neck, such as having a runny nose and sore throat, doing some light cardio and strength may help you to feel better.3 We recommend doing a 10 minutes warm up before your workout. If you feel nauseous or have trouble breathing, stop exercising immediately. It is better to tone down the intensity of your regular exercise regime as there is a higher risk of injury when you are sick.

Some individuals may feel worse when they do not exercise when they are sick. Hence, we recommend a walk or a light jog (active recovery methods) on these days. Yoga, mobility and stretching may be a better option then a full workout. Research has shown that moderate exercise actually decreases your likelihood to get sick and raises your immune system (T-cells in particular).4

We also recommend you to book with your chiropractor, as he/she will be able to relieve the pain and dysfunction caused from being sick. For example, chiropractors get many cases of people with headaches and neck pain from excessive coughing. They are able to relieve this tension with soft tissue techniques and adjustments, which may help you to feel better.

In summary, should you exercise? If you have a fever – NO; if you don’t have a fever, try it out and see how you go. Remain moderately active and drink plenty of fluids. If any pain or aching persists, see your allied health care professional to guide you to the best treatment course.


  1. Bernheim HA, Block LH, Atkins E. Fever: Pathogenesis, pathophysiology, and purpose. Ann Intern Med. 1979;91(2):261-70. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-91-2-261
  2. Brown H. Fever. GP. 2012 Mar 7: 36-37.
  3. Hutchinson A. Exercising when sick – don’t sweat it. Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada). 2009 Nov 26: L.4
  4. Navarro F, Bacurau AVN, Pereira GB, Araújo RC, Almeida SS, Moraes MR, et al. Moderate exercise increases the metabolism and immune function of lymphocytes in rats. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013;2012;113(5):1343-52. Available from ProQuest.

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should contact your own physician or other qualified health can provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on information from this content. Relying on information provided by this content is done at your own risk. Although the authors have made every effort to provide the most up-to-date evidence-based health information, this content should not necessarily be considered the standard of care and may not reflect individual practices in other geographic locations.

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