- Is It Okay to Exercise When You Have a Cold? What Doctors Should Know About Exercising During Illness
When you’re under the weather, skipping your workout seems like a no-brainer. But what to do if you just had a cold or some other minor illness? Sure, you’re not feeling as *great* as usual, but your symptoms aren’t too bad, so it’s okay to exercise with a cold, isn’t it? After all, it’s that easy to press the play button on Netflix.
Here’s the thing: Not all colds are created equal, and there’s a lot of “it depends” on the answer to that one role, says Jessalynn Adam, MD, attending physician for sports medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
First of all, there are strong arguments for exercising when you have a cold. A little gentle exercise can actually boost the immune system, depending on how sick you are, says a member of the Women’s Health Advisory Board. (It may even give you a nice endorphin boost to make you feel better, says Medical Director of Restore Hyper Wellness). This is good news for the restless.
But keep in mind that there’s a “delicate balance between your ability to be physically active and your immune system’s ability to fight infection,” says an exercise medicine physician at the University of California State University Wexner Medical Centr , Ohio .
Although “when we are ill, much of our energy is expended fighting whatever you are fighting, be it a virus or a bacterium,” there is no hard and fast rule that says you cannot exercise can get, explains Mysore.
So if you love moving your body while struggling with a runny nose or a mild headache, you can still give it a try.(But more details on when and how later.)
Before you jump on the treadmill, find out everything you need to know about sports when you are ill, have a cold or other mysterious germs – assuming, of course, that you feel like it.
How do colds affect your physical performance?
Colds can come with a variety of symptoms, and they all affect your ability to move a little differently, Jonesco says.
However, there is a common thread: when you have a cold, your body goes into overdrive trying to fight it off, making you tired. That can mean less muscle strength and endurance, leaving you feeling fatigued much sooner than you would normally with a workout, he explains.
And when you have a fever, it can affect your body’s ability to regulate its temperature, which can cause you to overheat faster than normal.
Does exercise help with a cold?
Uh, not really. Light exercise can help boost your immune system over time, but there’s no research to suggest that exercise during a cold actually shortens the length of your cold.
However,Fitness can help you ~feel~ better. “Exercise releases many hormones that can make you feel good whether you have a cold,” says, infectious disease specialist, and principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
However, keep in mind that going overboard with a cold could actually make things worse. “Exercising too much when you’re sick can make it harder for your body to fight infection and may take longer to get better,” says a sports medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan. -Jobe Institute in Anaheim.
Not to mention that “trying to sweat a lot can lead to dehydration, and you really should make sure you stay hydrated when you’re sick,” adds trainer CPT, co-founder of online exercise service Barpath Fitness, add.
TLDR: Even if you’re just battling a cold, you don’t feel compelled to “sweat it out.” Listen to your body and only train at a level you are comfortable with.
So when can you exercise with a cold?
If you have a cold and want to exercise, follow the “neck rule”.
“If all of your symptoms are above the throat, you can safely exercise,” says Adam. “But if you have symptoms that are below the neck, you probably shouldn’t exercise. That’s the rule I use every time I have an athlete who wants to train.”
- According to this rule, you can train with these symptoms:
- Stuffy nose
- sore throat
If you can exercise with a cold, are there any exercises that are better than others?
Do you have the green light to train according to the neck rule? Don’t take it as permission to go all out or push for PR. “This is not the time to ramp up your exercise routine,” says Adam. “Your body is still fighting a contagious disease, after all.”
If you’re craving cardio, do light cardio and don’t hold out for as long as you normally would, says Adam. Meanwhile, strength training can be challenging as you’re probably already feeling exhausted. “It’s not a good idea to go heavy, but lighter weights should be fine,” she says.
Perhaps the best choice: get out. “Walking in the sun at low intensity can definitely promote healthy blood flow in your body and allow you to get some vitamin D (which boosts the immune system),” says Kollath.
Of course, if you’re feeling worse, call him every day.
The best training for a cold:
- Light jogging
- exercise bike
- Light Resistance Training
- Worst Workouts When You Have a Cold:
- Long or severe runs
Heavy Resistance Training
Whatever routine you choose, simply give your gear a thorough cleaning after use so it’s solid for the next person who uses it.
So when should it be better not to exercise when you have a cold?
You guessed it: the neck rule applies here too. If you have symptoms below the neck (and/or have a fever), the best way to relax is through exercise, Adams says. Take the rest day(s) and let your body recover.
Do not exercise if you have any of these symptoms:
- difficulty breathing
- body pains
- General chest congestion