4 easy workout options for when you are sick

Meenakshi S.

July 9, 2019

You are determined to stick to your New Year resolution of doing your daily workout diligently, but an unwelcome cold or flu has come in the way. What should you do? Should you work out when you are sick or indulge in a long nap?

Fitness experts say the answer depends on where your illness lies. If your symptoms are above the neck — sneezing, sore throat, blocked nose or teary eyes — then you are good to go. But if the problem lies below the neck such as coughing, body aches or fever, you need ditch your sneakers and get some rest.

Of course, the prospect of doing crunches between “achoos” may be daunting. Here’s a bunch of workout options that are simple yet effective:


When the body is fighting an infection, it releases the stress hormone cortisol. Practising yoga helps relieve stress. The deep breathing and gentle stretching can alleviate the body ache caused by colds and sinus infections. But don’t try vigorous Surya namaskars or the fast-paced new-age yoga forms. Stick to simple asanas and remember to chant ‘Om’. A Swedish study has found that humming is a good way to open up blocked sinus passages.shutterstock_374132188 (Copy) (2)


Even a short 20-minute walk will make you feel like you have worked out your body. Since walking forces you to take deep breaths, your plugged sinuses may open up. Try an afternoon walk. It will help you get some much-needed warmth from the sun, too.

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If you are enrolled in a Zumba or belly dance class, don’t miss your session. Dance is a low impact exercise which does not put too much pressure on your joints. It is unlikely to aggravate a cold-related headache or body pain. Plus, you can reduce your pace and simply move to the tune. A study showed that people who just listened to 50 minutes of dance music had less cortisol and more cold-fighting antibodies. You can also try dance as a workout option when it’s too cold to head outside.

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If you are a regular runner or jogger, you can head to the park even when you have been sneezing. Running is known to be a natural decongestant. You will feel better and lighter instantly. But it is advisable to reduce the intensity and duration of your run. This is definitely not a time for endurance running and marathon preparation.

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Things to remember

You need to listen to your body when you are sick.

  •  Follow the 10-minute rule. Assess your condition ten minutes after you start working out. If you are fine, carry on. But if you are feeling too tired or sicker, stop and hit the bed. You can resume your workouts a few days later.
  •  Exercise increases your heart rate and so do cold medicines. So exercising when you have a cold will make your heart pump very hard. If you get breathless, stop immediately.
  •  Wheezing, chest tightness or pressure, dizziness and trouble in balancing also signal the need to call it quits.

About the Author

In addition to doing her Master’s in Physiotherapy from Oxford College, Bangalore, Meenakshi has done her MD in Alternative Medicine too. She is also a Certified Childbirth Educator, a Pre and Postnatal Fitness Expert and an ACSM Health and Fitness Specialist. Meenakshi attributes most lifestyle disorders to today’s sedentary way of living. She has always shared HealthifyMe’s vision of incorporating healthy habits into an individual’s existing lifestyle. “Do not think of diet and exercise as sacrifice, make it a habit and enjoy it instead,” she says, recommending small changes to ease the mind and body towards a more wholesome life.

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