If you have a cold is it wise to exercise? Should you put your work outs on hold or muddle through? Surprisingly, research shows that the common cold doesn’t affect otherwise healthy people’s ability to exercise. Neither their lung function nor overall exercise capability was reduced. This is good news for people who don’t want to skip their exercise routine when they have a cold.
The general answer to whether you should exercise with a cold is that if you’re otherwise healthy and don’t have any of the red flags listed below, it’s probably fine for you to exercise when you have a cold. However, you definitely want to pay attention to your body (for example, if it’s telling you to skip your workout then skip your workout) and may want to dial your workout down a notch. You also want to take your overall fitness level into consideration. When you have a cold, it’s not the best time to start a new intense workout.
Personally, when I have a cold, I do about half the intensity and half the duration of my regular exercise plan. For example, if I had an hour long vigorous aerobics class scheduled and I came down with a cold, I’d change my exercise plan to a mild to moderately paced thirty minute walk. If I had a forty minute circuit weight training exercise session planned I might change that to twenty minutes of mild tai chi or yoga. I love exercise and would prefer to never miss a work out, but I also realize that it’s important to give my body a chance to heal itself.
If your cold symptoms are confined to the above the neck region then you may be safe to exercise. However, there are times you should definitely not workout and consult your doctor. If you have a cold and any of the red flags below (or any symptoms below the neck) I recommend that you skip your exercise and call your doctor.
Exercise with a Cold Red Flag: Fever
If you have a fever it might be more than just the common cold. Plus, your body temperature is already high and exercise will only raise it higher, which could be dangerous. You should not exercise if you have a cold and a fever and you should also call your doctor.
Exercise with a Cold Red Flag: Chest Congestion or Difficulty Breathing
If you are having chest congestion, difficulty breathing or any kind of lung disease (such as asthma) you should not exercise when you have a cold and should seek medical attention. Difficulty breathing warrants immediate medical intervention.
Exercise with a Cold Red Flag: Increased Heart Rate
Cold medicines and complications can raise your heart rate and exercise will only raise it higher, possibly to dangerous levels. If you have a cold and your heart rate is elevated you should not exercise and should definitely call your doctor.
Exercise with a Cold Red Flag: Dizziness or Lightheadedness
Whether you have a cold or not, it’s not a good idea to exercise if you are experiencing dizziness, lightheadedness or vertigo. See your doctor before exercising if you have any of these conditions.
Exercise With a Cold Red Flag: Symptoms Below the Neck
If you have any cold symptoms based below your neck level, then you want to take a break from exercise until they clear up. This is a sign that your body needs rest more than exercise.
I hope that this article was helpful to you and wish you the best of health!
Note: Before starting any new exercise program you should always consult your physician. This article is not intended to replace your physician’s medical advice.