I am over weight and generally out of shape and my doctor has suggested that I should work out regularly. I have accumulated a large amount of sick leave and was hoping to use that to be able to go to the gym a few times a week during lunch.

My job responsibilities are such that taking a 2 hour lunch break a couple of days a week. Alternatively, we have flexible working hours so instead of taking a break in the middle of the day I could start work an hour late or leave an hour early. None of these options would negatively effect my co-workers ability to perform their jobs. It also would not be overly detrimental to my productivity (or more accurately I would still be able to exceed my annual performance goals).

I work for the US government as a general schedule (GS) civilian employee. I believe this is the official sick leave policy. To be clear, the whole idea of using the sick leave is reduce the number of hours that I work a week such that I am maximally taking advantage of a benefit that my employer provides. That said, I do not wish to violate the policy and still intend on exceeding my performance goals.

Would going to the gym on the advice of a doctor be considered receiving medical treatment?

Potentially the more general question is if any routine and regular preventative/wellness care qualifies for sick leave.

  • 7
    Sick leave is for when you are sick - Why not go before work?
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 19:36
  • 5
    Well, federal employee so.... Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 19:44
  • 3
    So you want to get paid whilst doing a workout? Seems a bit unfair to the employer. I think the policy requires a bit of common sense and a bit of understanding as to the spirit of it
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 19:47
  • 3
    @StrongBad and if you do a good job in a government job, you either get all the work dumped on you, or you get approached by three union thugs who say "You're makin' us look bad!" but that's just my first hand experience. Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 19:49
  • 7
    Adjust your sleep schedule, get up early, and get in 30 minutes of weights and maybe some light cardio (jump rope, burpees, etc) afterwards. Consult with a registered dietitian or RD-qualified nutritionist for help with your meal plans. Nutrition plays a much larger role in weight loss than exercise (which is still beneficial). A sick day is not a "personal leave day" (which some companies offer sparingly). A few days off for working out won't help, and is violating your obligation to be a "faithful agent" of your employer.
    – Cloud
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 20:11

3 Answers 3


You would have to talk to your HR/approving authority to determine whether it meets the employer's requirements/policy or not.

It is likely that you will be required to provide a prescription or doctor's note to justify regular, frequent sick leave.

It's entirely possible that you would not need to disclose the nature of the treatment if you just presented a note from your doctor saying something along the lines of "StrongBad requires 2 hours of medical treatment 3 days/week." or similar. (People would be curious, obviously, but it would likely be illegal for them to demand specifics).


From the employers standpoint sick leave is for when you are sick. Its not meant to be taking the way you would take vacation time or personal time. People have been fired for doing things outside of work that is not customarily done when one is sick. With that in mind you need to speak with your employer and determiner if what you want to do is ok and provide them with a good reason. Some employers might say yes but most will say no to something like this.

I understand what you are trying to do and I think it would be a good idea to have 2 hour lunches at work so I could hit up the gym and have time to get cleaned up and go back to work. For me thought I would not try to use sick time to do this. Instead I would ask if I could have an extended lunch and just change the time I come into work to a little bit earlier and or the time I leave work to be a little bit later.

It all really depends on the job you are in and how firm they are on working hours.

In any case you need to ask someone if it would be allowed and go from there.

  • 1
    About the People have been fired for doing things [...] that is no customarily done..., that will depend a lot of of the circunstances. Someone in sick leave for depression/stress can be told by his doctor to do long walks, spend time outside, etc. And the employee should do that, in order to get well and fit for work ASAP. That said, I agree that the situation as told by the OP does not qualify.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 20:44
  • @SJuan76 Sure thats fine. All I was saying is that it has happened and to be careful on your the choices made during sick leave. I was not saying that it always happens or its a serious problem. I just wanted to point out the possibility. Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 20:46
  • @SJuan76 it sounds like you are suggesting that HR would attempt to judge the severity of a medical issue or the potential health benefits of a particular treatment in deciding what is covered. Maybe they use judgment when deciding when to ask for evidence/documentation, but the government tends to have well established and documented policies in an attempt to keep personal judgments out of decisions.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 20:54
  • @StrongBad btw I love your name and profile pic. Brings back some very old memories :D Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 20:56
  • 1
    No. Health data is strictly confidential, and HR is not -usually- staffed by medical personal. But they may require you to justify the nature of your sickness -through a doctor's report-, specially if they see something odd about how you spend time "I am getting sick each day at lunch time". As @ChrisG states, they will not ask what are you suffering from but what you can do and what you cannot with your condition.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 21:03

It's worth asking your immediate supervisor if he would be okay with you doing this. If he says yes, then no worries. Don't try to sugar-coat the reason or make excuses like "receiving medical treatment." That will only make things so much worse if it does begin to draw unwanted attention. However, if you approach your manager honestly about the situation, then you don't have to worry about anyone calling you a liar later.

That being said, consider this:

If you really want to lose weight and keep it off then you would probably be best served by getting into some more regular, long-term habits for exercise. No matter how many sick days you have built up, sooner or later you will have burned through them all, and then you'll have to either stop or change your routine. Perhaps it would be better to set up a schedule you can maintain indefinitely from the start. Whether that be going in early so you can leave early and work out, going for walks in the evening, or whatever you think of that works for you. If doing so side-steps any concerns about how you use your sick days, then so much the better.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .