When to Exercise When You Are Ill

We are getting into the winter months, which generally means the cold and flu season is on its way. I often get asked if it’s okay to exercise when sick? I know there is nothing more frustrating than enjoying your exercise programme, getting results and then getting ill, whether it’s a common cold, full blown flu or another horrible bug.

Asking if you can exercise when sick can be a bit like asking how long is a piece for string? It all really comes down to your symptoms, how you feel and the type of exercise you want to do.

I personally use the general rule of thumb that if my symptoms are just above the head (so runny nose, sore throat or sneezing) it’s still okay for moderate to gentle exercise. Take it easier than normal and do nothing that’s going to be too tiring. Personally, I find it hard to take a step back and not go to the gym or run but sometimes you just have to learn to listen to your body and rest up when needed.

If I can feel a cold coming on, but the symptoms aren’t too bad I will just start with some gentle exercise, see how I feel after ten minutes and then either stop or keep going depending on how I feel. If you aren’t too sick and do the right exercise it can actually help your immune system. So if you do just have a common cold and feel like you could do some form of exercise then do just, just far easier than normal.

However, there are some definite signs and symptoms of when you should avoid any type of exercise (usually ‘below the neck’ symptoms): – High temperature – Achy muscles (not your usual post-workout type of aches) – Chesty cough – Swollen glands – Vomiting – Diarrhea

If you display any forms of those symptoms, then you need to rest. It’s more important to give yourself the time to heal, sleep and stay hydrated. There is no point pushing yourself to only make yourself worse. It’s also important that when you are sick that you don’t spread your germs to those around you (you wouldn’t want them to do it to you).

Once you have got over the worst of your symptoms and want to get back into your routine, always make sure you start with an easier workout to make sure you are fully over whatever you had. Going too hard too quickly can sometimes lead to a reoccurrence of your symptoms.

Unfortunately getting sick is a part of life and we can’t be super human all the time. I generally know when I get sick (which isn’t often at all nowadays), it’s my body’s way of telling me I need to listen and slow down a little bit.

Remember it’s okay to put your feet up sometimes and let your body heal. It is better to have a couple of days off to fight off an illness instead of battling through regardless and missing a month when you make it worse. Be sensible.

I’m also not a medical expert by any means so I always advise to seek professional medical advice when you really are unsure or symptoms persist.

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To Weigh or Not to Weigh?

Since I started getting fit, I rarely weigh myself, and that’s actually something I’m proud of. I’m a firm believer of that you shouldn’t determine your success by a number on the scales. For most people they want to lose weight because of the way they look. If that is the case, in all of my programs I promote using body measurements and taking photos to show progress. It still surprises me, though, how many girls I see obsessing over their body weight. I really can’t emphasise enough, how measuring weight isn’t the best way to show your progress when it comes to your health and fitness goals. So, I’m here to tell you why you need say goodbye to your bathroom scales and measure your fitness success in other ways. 

Why it’s important to measure your results – Whilst I say don’t weigh yourself, I still think it is really important to track your progress on your health and fitness journey. That’s because, when you have clear goals about what you want, you need a way to measure how you are tracking towards those goals. It’s also a good way of keeping yourself motivated and holding yourself accountable. As I like to say “what gets measured, gets done”.

Why body weight isn’t the best for measuring your progress – Your body weight can vary depending on many things. Once you start incorporating strength training into your workouts, you will start to build muscle. As you begin to build muscle your weight may increase, or stay the same, even though you are losing fat. As muscle takes up less volume than fat, your overall ‘size‘ will decrease. Weight can also vary depending on water retention, time of the month (for women), and your digestive system. Depending on what is going on in the body means the scales may vary a lot, so it’s not painting an accurate picture of your true results. You can hold on to water more on one day than another, for example. If you jump on the scale and see the number has gone up or hasn’t moved the way you hoped, it can lead to feelings of disappointment when in fact you could be achieving some awesome results. I see a lot of people building a very unhealthy relationship around their weight, which is exactly why I don’t like regular weighing as a measurement to track progress.

Before and after photos – If you are wanting to lose weight because you don’t like the way you look, this is a preferred method of measuring your progress. I always strongly recommend doing a ‘before’ photo when you start on any new health and fitness goal. Without visibly being able to see how you’re going, it is all too easy to lose motivation. Photos will definitely show more on your progress than the numbers on the scale do. I know sometimes the photos can be upsetting if you are don’t like the way you look, but it can also be one of the biggest motivators for you. These will allow to take an honest look at where you are. For instance, while you can keep them somewhere private just for yourself, you can also tape them to your fridge door to use as a motivation to eat properly and exercise. This type of tactic keeps you motivated to stay on track. Then, once you start seeing how your body is changing in your progress shots, you’ll just want to keep working hard.

Body measurements – Body measurements are another great way of seeing where you have lost fat from the body. As you gain more muscle, lose fat and get leaner, your body shape will change and your measurements will decrease. Or, for some, you may want to increase in size. I suggest keeping this very simple and only take a few measurements. Measure your chest, waist, lower abdomen, hips, upper arms and upper thighs. Do this in about four-week blocks.   

Celebrate other successes – Remember, whilst it’s good to see how your body is physically changing, don’t forget to look at other successes that will happen during your health and fitness journey. Becoming fit and healthy isn’t just about how you look aesthetically, but also how you feel. For me, I love that I have more energy, self-confidence and that I am physically stronger than I have ever been. So, whilst it’s good to see how you are tracking on a physical level, also don’t forget to look at all the other amazing things you are gaining in your life. I look back now at who I was before, and who I am now, and it’s two completely different people. Every day I wake up and know that I’m happier, stronger, better and wiser than I used to be. To me, that is the biggest success I have gained.


Remember your happiness and self-worth should not be dependent on a number that a scale reads back at you. Yes, results are important but don’t forget to be proud of yourself, every step along the way.

Want to know more?

Contact me today to ask any questions or book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com