If you’re feeling a little under the weather and you’re not sure whether or not you should still attempt to work out, then the first question you should ask yourself is ‘how sick am I really?‘.

This question does not have a simple answer. It depends on what kind of sickness you have, how sick you really are and what parts of your body are affected.

Have you got a cold or have you been struck down with the flu?

We all know what happens when Winter rolls around. Kleenex sales increase, there are more empty desks as your colleagues get struck down one by one with a cold and at least one male you know falls victim to the dreaded man flu!


Anyone who has had the flu knows it is much more than just a runny nose or a sore throat. The flu generally presents in the body as aches and pains, a fever, little to no energy and an overwhelming need for sleep.

When you’re struck down with the flu, your immune system is already in overdrive trying to fight it off. A fever, for example, is your body working hard trying to get rid of an infection, so trying to exercise on top of this is putting your body under even more stress. So, in the case of the flu, rest definitely is the best option.

A cold, on the other hand, might simply be a blocked nose, sore throat or even just that overarching feeling of being ‘under the weather’. In this case, you might be able to get in a workout.

How to test when ‘rest is best’

  • Are your symptoms ‘above the neck’?
    If your symptoms are only above the neck (eg sniffles, blocked nose, runny nose) then you should be fine to do a workout.
  • Are you feeling dizzy or more fatigued than normal?
    If you find yourself feeling dizzy, out of breath or more fatigued than normal – stay home, or stop your workout immediately.
  • Are you feeling achy?
    If you’re feeling feverish, achy or chesty – rest is best.

If you’ve got a mild cold but feel like you could still get active then, by all means, get moving but take it easy. This might mean swapping your run for a walk, or your boot camp for yoga. It’s better to lower the intensity and let your body recover rather than push through and burn out.

VIDEO: Try this “can I exercise” exercise!

Try this little warm-up exercise to see how your body is feeling. It’s just some simple movements, but it’s enough to give you a good idea if you are well enough to workout today!

When you should probably do a gentle workout

Whenever you feel a little unwell, but you pass the test above, you’re still probably better off toning down the intensity of your workout to let your body recover. If you try to stick to your normal workout regime you might find that you crash and burn, which could put you out of action for longer.

Did you know that 70-90% of your immune system is in your small intestine?

Since our digestive system plays such a big role in our ability to fight off sickness, it’s a good idea to eat as healthy as you can, and to know what foods are ‘gut-friendly’ and which foods are not.

healthy eating planner

How eating ‘real food’ can help you recover and get back to exercise quicker

When you’re sick – or feeling early warning symptoms – you should try to make an extra effort to eat clean. Ensure you’re eating a balanced diet consisting of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens and healthy fats from avocados, coconut and extra virgin olive oils, seeds and nuts.

Eat foods that support your digestive system

You can support your digestion and your immune system by eating foods that are known to have natural anti-inflammatory and/or gut-friendly qualities. Foods high in Vitamin C are also helpful during winter to help support your body and ward off colds and cases of flu.

Eat naturally-fermented or anti-inflammatory foods such as:

  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • kombucha
  • garlic
  • turmeric

Immunity-boosting foods rich in Vitamin C include:

  • citrus fruits
  • berries
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • kale
  • brussel sprouts

Cut back on that refined sugar!

If you’re feeling under the weather and a little low in energy, you might gravitate towards sugary ‘comfort foods’.

Although I’m all for an occasional treat, if you’re unwell you should steer clear of refined sugars. Sugar feeds the “wrong” kind of bacteria in your gut, which might lead to you having an inbalance, with too many bad bacteria and not enough of the good kind that helps you fight off those colds and flus.

Food really can be your medicine

Next time you’re unwell, try my Kung Flu-Fighting Chicken Soup.

Did you know 28 is the only online fitness, nutrition and mindset program to receive the ‘I Quit Sugar’ recommended tick of approval?


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Posted by Sam Wood

Father and husband, on a mission to help people move more, eat better and make a positive change to their lives. Sam Wood has over 20 years experience as a personal trainer and is recognised as one of Australia’s leading experts and media commentators in the health & fitness industry. Sam is the founder and personal trainer of 28, Australia’s #1 home fitness and nutrition program, and he's also the proud owner of Australia’s largest personal training studio, The Woodshed, based in Brighton, Melbourne.