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Returning to Workouts After an Illness

Returning to Workouts After an Illness

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTPLeave a Comment

The response to flu, colds, or bronchitis is varied, and individuals may be affected differently. A cold can present varying symptoms and severity, including sore throat, coughing, sneezing, fatigue, fever, and more. How do you know when to return to your workouts after being sick? This blog will discuss a few physical therapist-approved tips to help you get back to your favorite activities.

General Guidelines for Exercising When Sick:

  • If symptoms are above the neck (coughing, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat) and no other body symptoms, you can proceed with a workout at half speed.
  • If symptoms are below the neck (fever, aching muscles, vomiting, diarrhea), you should not work out that day.
    • Reduce training schedule for 1-2 days until symptoms improve.
  • Going low and slow when you return to exercise is a good idea, meaning low intensity and slow or shorter duration.
  • It may take a few weeks after an illness to resume your routines to their previous levels for intensity and duration.
  • After illness, you should limit the duration and intensity of your exercise routine. You should monitor your response to this “lighter” exercise regimen to determine your next course of action. If you feel alright, then you can begin to resume your routine. If you feel exhausted, then maybe you need to take an extra rest day.

Ways to Return to Exercise After Illness


Yoga or stretching is a great way to move your body after taking several days off. Stretching is an active recovery activity. When you are performing stretches, you control how far you go and how intense it is.

Benefits of Yoga:

  • Improves strength, balance, flexibility
  • It helps with relaxation, can help improve sleep
  • It helps you manage stress
  • It can potentially help with back pain and arthritis symptoms
  • It can increase your energy and improve your mood


After having some days off from exercise, walking can be a great option to get your body moving again. There are many options for walking: indoors/outdoors, sidewalks/hiking, short/long distance.

Benefits of Walking:

  • Increases the heart rate
  • Increases blood flow to muscles
  • It can help improve balance and strength
  • Improves endurance
  • It can help you manage stress levels

Bike Riding

Cycling is a good option as you can modify the difficulty level easily. Riding a bike is a low impact on your joints and can be a good way to reintroduce your body to exercise after taking a break from illness.

Benefits of Riding a Bike:

  • Increases the heart rate
  • It can improve joint flexibility
  • Improves strength and endurance
  • It can help with posture and coordination

Listen to Your Body

Remember to allow your body to rest and recover during and after an illness. Returning to workouts should be gradual to assess your body’s reaction. Use these tips to keep you exercising during this cold and flu season! If you have difficulties returning to your active lifestyle after your illness has resolved, reach out to an Athletico near you for a Free Assessment. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. “How Long Should I Wait after the Flu before Resuming Exercise?” Harvard Health, 30 Mar. 2021,
2. “When It’s Safe to Exercise after Getting Sick.” NYU Langone News,

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About the Author:
Tara Hackney, a physical therapist in Marion, IA, enjoys working with all patient types, especially gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. She is the prominent blogger for Athletico's Gymnastic/Cheer Program. With an orthopedic specialization and training in dry needling and Graston technique, Tara hopes to answer your questions about injuries and injury prevention in an easy-to-understand manner. She hopes to ease fears surrounding pain and injuries, address concerns about recovery, and provide tips to prevent injury. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and watching her nephews play sports.

Read more health resources related to these topics:

ExerciseFitnessStretchingexercising after illnesswalkingyoga

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