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Is it OK to Exercise When You Have a Cold?


When you’re sick with a cold, you often hear that the best remedy is rest. But is that statement really true? Many people wonder whether they should continue to exercise when they have a cold or take a break and focus on getting better.

While rest can be beneficial for your recovery, some studies suggest that moderate exercise can also help alleviate some of your symptoms and boost your immune system.

However, it’s essential to understand the risks and benefits of exercising with a cold and listen to your body’s signals.

The common cold is a prevalent illness that affects millions of people every year. It is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, causing symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, congestion, and sore throat.

According to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, exercising with a cold can be beneficial for your immune system and alleviate some of your symptoms.

The study found that moderate exercises, such as walking, cycling, or light weightlifting, can help reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and clear the sinuses, all of which can alleviate cold symptoms.

However, the study also noted that intense exercises, such as high-intensity interval training or long-distance running, can compromise your immune system and prolong your recovery time.

When you are sick, your body is already under stress from fighting off the virus, and adding physical stress to it can be counterproductive.

Moreover, working out with a cold can increase your risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or myocarditis, which can be serious and require medical attention.

In a review article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the authors suggest that athletes with a cold or flu should refrain from exercising for at least two to three days after the onset of symptoms and gradually resume activity as they feel better.

Additionally, the review article notes that exercising with a cold can compromise your respiratory system and make it harder for you to breathe.

This is particularly true for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions, as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction can exacerbate their symptoms and increase their risk of an asthma attack.

Therefore, it is essential to listen to your body’s signals and avoid high-intensity workouts when you have a cold.

The American Council on Exercise recommends that people with a cold or flu should reduce their exercise intensity by 50 percent and avoid exercise that involves the upper respiratory tract, such as swimming or cycling in cold weather.

If you do decide to exercise with a cold, do so at home instead of going to a public gym. Colds can be very easily transmitted through direct contact with an infected person, as well as through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Additionally, touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes can also spread the virus.

The Verdict

Exercising with a cold can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on the circumstances. Mild to moderate exercise can help alleviate some of your symptoms and boost your immune system, but intense exercise can stress your body and compromise your recovery.

Listen to your body’s signals, avoid high-intensity workouts, and practice good hygiene when exercising with a cold. If you are unsure whether you should exercise with a cold, it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider before resuming exercise after an illness.

Your doctor can advise you on the best course of action based on your individual needs and help you develop a safe and effective exercise plan.

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