Should You Train When You Are Ill?

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When the temperature starts to drop and the winter months approach it seems that illness is everywhere. People are coughing and spluttering and whether you’re in an office or classroom environment it is almost impossible to avoid catching some form of illness.

The question is when you feel ill should you still train?

Training when sick

Providing you’re working out with intensity then you should find yourself breathing heavily, sweating and feeling an element of physical discomfort. This process places stress on the body and provokes a response.

When we are feeling fit and healthy our bodies can easily cope with these additional stresses and overtime, in a process known as progressive adaption, our body will become more familiar with being pushed and it is this process which results in us becoming stronger and fitter.

However, when you’re ill and workout you will be putting your body under the same additional stress, but your immune system has been weakened. This means that your body may not be able to cope with the additional stresses and strains placed upon it.

How Ill Do You Have To Be Not To Train?

There are of course different levels of feeling ill. Just because you have a slight cold doesn’t mean you have to avoid exercise completely. You should be able to tell for yourself when you’re not feeling right. If you’re feeling very ill then you should avoid training until you’re feeling better.

Think About Other People

The gym isn’t always the best place when it comes to hygiene. There will always be people who train without a sweat towel and just think how many sweaty hands have gripped the dumbbells or barbell you’re using.

What makes it even worse is if someone who is ill comes into the gym and spends the whole time coughing between sets and spreading harmful germs throughout the gym and all over the equipment.

If you’re ill the best thing you can do for yourself and others is stay out the gym.

Can You “sweat it out” when it comes to illness?

The idea of going to the gym to sweat out your illness seems to be a popular one, but is this actually true or is it a bit of a myth?

In some cases non-strenuous exercise, like walking, can be beneficial for overcoming illness. Light exercise is not strenuous enough to compromise your immune system, but will often help you to feel better.

Providing you only slightly raise your heart rate and perform light cardio then these activities have been proven to offer some benefits to helping you to feel better.

As you’re aware, there are different levels of intensity involved when working out, so what makes a workout strenuous? A workout considered strenuous by you may not be to someone else depending on his or her fitness level.

You need to decide for yourself what is strenuous. A low intensity workout should make you feel energised and a high intensity workout will leave you feeling fatigued. If you’re feeling ill then don’t train at a high intensity.

The impact of exercise on the Immune System

After performing prolonged high intensity exercise, for example running a marathon, your body will be more susceptible to becoming ill.

It’s therefore important to think about what type of training you’re doing when considering whether it is a good idea to workout.

Regular Training Can Help Your Immune System

Consistent resistance training can positively impact your immune system by strengthening it over time. When you’re feeling fit and healthy your training can benefit your immune system in the long run.

However, single bouts of very high intensity exercise or long duration exercise sessions can have a negative impact on your immune systems ability to fight infections. In this case, make sure to take it easy if you’re feeling ill and let your body recover.

Symptoms & Training

To make things as clear as possible let’s consider what your symptoms are and then whether or not you should train.

Only perform low intensity exercise with symptoms ‘above the neck’, like a sore throat, cough or runny nose.

Do not exercise if you’re experiencing muscle or joint pain, shivering, headaches, fever or vomiting.

When you feel ill try to avoid highly strenuous training like heavy weight training, endurance training, HIIT, sprinting, team sports and exercise in extreme temperatures.

Take It Easy When You Resume Training

If you’ve been ill and are now feeling better, do not expect to return to the gym and train with the same intensity you did before you fell ill. Make sure to ease yourself back into training by having a few light sessions.

As a general rule if you were ill for four days, give yourself four days of training to ease yourself back in. The last thing you want is to push yourself too hard too early and suffer a relapse in your health.

Immune Support

Immune system health is an often neglected area of supplementation. Look after your immune system by using one or more of the powerful supplements in our immune system health category.

Vitamin C contributes to maintaining normal function of the immune system during and after intense physical exercise. Vitamin D and Zinc also contribute to the normal function of the immune system.

You could try SPORTS MULTI AM:PM™ or our Complete Multivitamin Complex™ which contain all three of these vitamins and minerals, as well as an array of other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in optimal dosages.


You should let your symptoms be your guide. If you’re feeling under the weather then keep in mind that it would be better to train with less intensity than you usually would. If you get to the gym start training and you just don’t feel right do not be afraid to stop. Missing a few days working out is not the end of the world. Focus instead on maintaining a healthy diet packed full of vitamins and nutrients, and keep your protein levels high to help maintain muscle mass.

About the Author

Alex Genzel is passionate about health and fitness having been involved in a number of competitive sports from an early age. He has been writing about sports nutrition and training for a number of years, alongside pursuing his passion for bodybuilding and desire to become a certified personal trainer. As well as writing for BULK POWDERS® Alex also has his own blog where he shares his training experiences and advice on supplements.

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