Can I Go to the Gym While on Workers’ Comp?

A man on Workers' Compensation picks up a dumbbell at a gym.

Let’s say you suffer a workplace injury. Can you still go to the gym while your claim is pending or while you’re on workers’ compensation? The answer depends on you injuries, your place in the process, and what your doctor tells you.

But sitting around staring at the walls is not helping you get better, either. Is there a happy medium? As workers’ comp attorneys, we get this question from many clients. Let’s unwrap this once and for all.

Can I Go to the Gym if My Workers’ Comp Claim Is Pending?

It depends on the type of injury. If you are not yet receiving benefits and you have an orthopedic injury (such as an injury to your bones or joints), it’s probably best not to do any strenuous activity unless a doctor recommends or prescribes it. Other types of injuries, like burns, eye injuries, and psychiatric complaints may be unaffected by trips to the gym.

Just be aware that, if you have filed a claim and are waiting, some insurance companies may be looking for any excuse to deny your claim. They’re looking for any behavior that is inconsistent with your injury. As an injured worker, you have it hard enough without making things even more difficult.

So, if you’re completely out of work due to an injury, going to the gym might raise some red flags. We’d also be concerned with the insurance company arguing that your injury was aggravated – or an intervening incident occurred – at the gym.

Consult a physician before you go to a gym – and talk to your workers’ comp attorney about it.

Can I Go to the Gym While Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

It depends. You can ask you treating physician if you can or should go to the gym. If you’ve broken your arm, you may be perfectly able to hit the treadmill. If you’ve got a busted ankle, upper body exercise may be fine.

Working out produces positive physical and psychological benefits. A therapist might even direct you to exercise in specific ways to help heal your work-related injury, which may be accomplished at your gym.  Many well-equipped gyms will have workout equipment specifically designed to target certain parts of the body and work them in specific ways, which may be exactly what you need.

But beware. If you go to the gym without doctor approval or therapist direction while receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you may lose your benefits or disrupt your medical care. The insurance company appoints your doctor, so they know your treatment plan, your injury, your restrictions, and your job.

Discuss with your treating physician before you workout.

The key here is to involve your doctor and never exceed your restrictions. Otherwise, that kind of activity would risk losing your workers’ comp benefits – if you’re well enough to work out, the insurance company could reason that you’re well enough to work.

How Will the Insurance Company Know I’m Going to the Gym?

They could be watching you. Some insurance companies may do some monitoring while injured workers are receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

Opposing counsel may look for incriminating evidence on your social media feed.

Surveillance may be as simple as a phone call, or they could use cameras, drones (we’ve heard of this, but haven’t encountered it yet), and more. Observing a public place like the gym doesn’t require special effort or tools from an investigator. Just calling the gym and asking could result in evidence against you.

The investigator may not even have to pick up the phone. People love posting gym pictures on social media. Not only should you not do that, be aware you may be in other gym users’ photos without even knowing it.

Don’t risk losing your workers’ compensation benefits. Get clearance first!

What Are the Laws in the Carolinas About Going to the Gym While Receiving Workers’ Compensation?

A general scan of North Carolina and South Carolina law reveals zero results for the word “gym.” In general, the law classifies workplace injuries and benefits to injured workers. It leaves treatment and medical questions to doctors and workers’ attorneys.

What if I Disagree With My Doctor’s Restriction on Going to the Gym?

You can request a second opinion on your care if you disagree with it. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you do this, as it’s often more complicated than it seems.

The Verdict: An Injured Worker Going to the Gym Is…

A worker does exercises with the help of a physical therapist.

OK if the doctor says it is – and your attorney says it won’t harm your case.

We tell our workers’ comp clients to consult with us before they go to the gym. We can make sure that the doctor is involved in the decision – and ideally clears the activity in writing.

Wherever you are in the process, our workers’ compensation team knows how to help you. The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin was recognized on the 2023 “Best Law Firms” list for workers’ compensation by U.S. New – Best Lawyers.3 For a free case evaluation from one of our attorneys – at no cost and no obligation – call 1-866-900-7078 today.


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About the Author

Michael Eller practices personal injury and workers’ compensation law for the Law Offfices of James Scott Farrin. He has been in practice for more than 10 years and is licensed in South Carolina and Georgia. He draws on his experience as both a solo practitioner and a large firm attorney to handle personal injury and workers’ compensation cases throughout the entire process. Michael is a member of both the South Carolina Association for Justice and the American Association for Justice. He previously served as a member of the South Carolina Bar Workers’ Compensation Section Council from 2012-2014.

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