To train or not to train? That is the question for gym-goers struck down by seasonal germs. Get a pre-flu briefing with PT Jay Bonaretti

Gyms are ideal breeding grounds for germs, so a word of warning: If you do rock up with a duffle full of used tissues, you will get the death stare. However, infectious disease considerations aside, you want to know whether you can still work out when you’re under the weather, right?

The good news is you’re not likely to die because you insist on a set with the sniffles but you may pay the price for a circuit while you’ve got the flu. We blow the myths of winter fitness.

Problem: You wake up with a stuffy nose and your head feels like it’s been caught in the door of a bus.

Fit doc says: Anything at or above throat level generally gives a nod to training.

Treatment plan: “Studies have shown that a moderate amount of exercise can help boost the function of the immune system and aid in recovering from many types of illness,” says WH&F science guru Jay Bonaretti, who owns online personal training website But some illness demands couch, not gym time. “Head colds are some of the safest for exercise.” To tell a cold from something more serious, look for congested sinuses, a sore neck and raw throat. “In these cases, it is not a bad idea to get out there and exercise,” Bonaretti says. However, he advises that exercise during any illness should be scaled back in intensity and/or duration.

Problem: Your chest sounds like a rattlesnake or you’re having more hot flushes than your menopausal mum and your muscles ache.

Fit doc says: “If you have a very bad chest cold, a flu, or flu-like symptoms, the lungs are compromised and busy,” Bonaretti says. “This is a good time to avoid exercise – especially that which leaves you out of breath.” Aerobic exercise can undermine the recovery process, at best delaying recovery and at worst, worsening your condition, he says.

Treatment plan: “Give your body a couple of days to get over the worst of the sickness, and then get back to extremely light workouts.” If your oral temperature remains at or above 37.5 degrees Celsius, you’re not ready to return to the gym.

Problem: Breathing no longer feels like drinking a thickshake from a can, but you still get tired walking to the letterbox.

Fit doc says: “After the initial ‘wham’ your body takes when you get sick, when your body moves into the ‘getting over’ part of it, exercise will be a big help,” Bonaretti says. That’s not a cue for a HIIT circuit, though. “Since the research supports getting a moderate amount of exercise, simply modify your program to fit this. More of something good is not always better. Neither high intensity exercise nor doing nothing at all will help you recover.”

Treatment plan: Even if you usually call anything less than supersets a ‘warm-up’, remember that exercise can include stretching, and no weights at all, Bonaretti says. “Keep in touch with how you feel before, during and after a workout. Eat well beforehand, ensure you have a recovery snack, and keep your workout simple and comfortable until you’re 100 per cent.”


Go ahead:
•    sinus congestion
•    runny nose and/or sneezing
•    painful throat

Back to bed:
•    temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius, possibly interspersed with chills
•    excessive tiredness not explained by activity level
•    wheezing or tight chest
•    nausea and/or vomiting
•    body aches

Jay owns leading Australian online supplement store Amino Z (

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