Does Working Out Help with a Cold?

If you’re feeling under the weather, you might be wondering if working out can help you feel better. Here’s what the research says.


Regular physical activity has been demonstrated to have numerous benefits, such as improving physical health, decreasing stress and anxiety levels, and even boosting mood. However, with the current strain of colds affecting many people in the United States each year, it is important to understand if working out can truly help with a cold. In this article we will explore the science behind this question so that you can make an informed decision before you hit the gym during your next cold.

We will cover topics such as possible immune system benefits associated with exercise and which types of exercises are best for managing a cold. Additionally, we will discuss potential risks associated with continuing regular exercise while sick. By the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of whether working out may be beneficial or potentially harmful when dealing with a common cold.

How Exercise Affects the Immune System

Exercise has been widely known to have many beneficial effects on the body, including improved cardiovascular and respiratory health. It is also known to have an impact on the immune system. While prolonged and intense exercise has been shown to temporarily weaken the immune system, moderate exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system. In this article, we’ll look into how exercise affects the immune system and how it can help with a cold or other illnesses.

The Role of Exercise in Strengthening the Immune System

Exercise has been found to play a role in strengthening the immune system and improving overall health. When done regularly, physical activity can help reduce the risk of developing a wide range of diseases, including colds. There is evidence that regular aerobic exercise increases the production of certain immune system-enhancing substances (e.g., cytokines, macrophages) in the body and helps lessen the severity and duration of respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu.

In addition to helping prevent infection, even brief bouts of moderate exercise can have a measurable effect on how quickly an already-infected person recovers from illness. In one study where individuals either exercised or did not exercise after being infected with rhinovirus (common cold), those who exercised had a significantly shorter course of illness than those who did not, regardless of their level of physical activity prior to infection.

In summary, engaging in regular physical activity is generally an effective way to maintain good health and reduce the risk and severity of illnesses such as common colds. Moderate intensity aerobic exercise should be performed for at least 30 minutes per day, several times per week for maximum benefit.

How Exercise Can Help Fight a Cold

Though it may sound counterintuitive, regular exercise can actually help defend your body against disease. This is because exercise stimulates the release of toxins, increases circulation and lymphatic flow, and regulates hormone production, all of which can strengthen the immune system and keep you healthy in the long run. In addition to keeping you fit and providing stress relief, regular workouts can also help your body fight off illnesses such as colds.

Exercise encourages the body to produce white blood cells, which help protect us from contagious infections and viruses. Increased heart rate during physical activity aids in sending these cells quickly throughout the bloodstream to any sites that need defending. Working out also increases adrenaline levels throughout your system; for a short period following exercise, this rush of hormones can delay any bacterial growth or infection agents like colds from taking hold.

Finally, it’s been proven that exercise can reduce stress hormones such as cortisol that suppress a healthy immune response; too much exposure of our bodies to high levels of these hormones causes them to become less resistant against virus infections from colds and other contagions in general. By staying active with consistent activity on a regular basis you’ll remain healthier overall with a robust immune system ready to defend against infectious disease.

Benefits of Exercise During a Cold

Exercising when you have a cold can actually be beneficial in many ways. Studies have shown that working out can help reduce the severity and duration of a cold. Exercise can also increase your immunity and improve your overall health. Additionally, it can help you feel more energized and release endorphins that can help you feel better. Let’s look at the other benefits of exercising when you have a cold.

Improved Sleep Quality

Exercising when you have a cold can help you to improve your sleep quality. When you exercise, your body temperature increases and stays elevated post-workout. The increase in core body temperature followed by a decrease during sleep is thought to encourage the onset and depth of sleep. Additionally, sweating during exercise will help to rid the body of any toxins or bacteria that are affecting you on a cellular level, leaving your head clearer and less congested, helping with your overall sleep quality.

Reduced Stress Levels

Regular exercise during a cold leads to reduced stress levels. The physical activity increases the body’s production of serotonin and endorphins, hormones that play an essential role in helping reduce stress levels, combat depression and boost psychological well-being. Stress has a negative effect on the body’s immune system, leaving it vulnerable to illness including colds. Not only can regular physical activity during a cold help improve the mental health of the individual, it may also help combat symptoms associated with the illness itself.

Additionally, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are usually less affected by cold-related illnesses like sniffles and sinus infections when compared with those who do not work out regularly. This can be attributed to better functioning of the immune system due to regular physical activity which helps make them more resistant to viral infections like colds. The extent of this resistance against a given virus or infection is directly proportional to the intensity and duration of one’s workouts before any symptoms appear.

Improved Energy Levels

When you have a cold, the last thing you may feel like doing is going for a run or hitting the gym. However, many experts agree that exercising can help to reduce some of the common symptoms of a cold as well as provide many positive health benefits. One beneficial effect of exercise during a cold is improved energy levels.

When your body is weaker due to illness, light physical activity such as walking or yoga can help to boost your energy levels and give you more energy overall. This further helps with the recovery process by allowing your body to direct energy into healing itself instead of dealing with sluggishness and fatigue due to low oxygen levels or inadequate circulation caused by insufficient movement.

Additionally, gentle exercising also helps improve endorphin production which can elevate your mood, reduce stress-caused inflammation and make it easier for you to tackle other daily tasks. Exercising during a cold is all about finding healthy balance between resting and moving in order to improve both mental and physical wellbeing while encouraging quicker recovery.

Precautions to Take When Exercising with a Cold

Exercising while feeling under the weather can be beneficial, but it’s important to take the right precautions. In general, if your cold is above the neck and you don’t have a fever, you should be ok to exercise. However, if your symptoms are more severe, it may be best to hold off on the workout until you feel better. Let’s look at some of the precautions to take when exercising with a cold.

Listen to Your Body

When exercising with a cold, it’s important to listen to your body and not try to push yourself too hard. If you don’t feel up to exercising, take a break and rest. Exercising at a lower intensity level or shorter duration might be enough to help you feel better while still allowing your body to heal. If your symptoms get worse after beginning exercise, stop right away and start the recovery process.

If you are feeling generally run-down or have any combination of respiratory symptoms — like coughing, sneezing, sore throat, nasal congestion or chest tightness — then it is best not to exercise until these have gone away. Even if other symptoms have gone away but these respiratory symptoms remain, it is best not to exercise as working out is more likely to cause further breathing problems which can delay recovery from the illness.

On the other hand, if none of the respiratory symptoms are present — and if you are feeling well beyond mild fatigue — then low intensity exercise such as walking may help symptom relief with colds depending on the severity of your illness and how far into it you already are. But if in doubt, always listen to your body first before making any decisions that could hinder your recovery process.

Avoid Intense Exercise

When suffering from a cold, it is important to avoid intense physical activity. This can include such activities as running, weightlifting, and high intensity sports. It is best to avoid exercise that increases your heart rate, as this will put additional strain on your already weakened body. However, there are still safe ways to get exercise while having a cold. Low-intensity activities such as walking, yoga or stretching will help you get some movement in your body while being gentle enough not to aggravate symptoms or make them worse. Taking precautions and avoiding strenuous exercise when suffering from a cold can save you time and discomfort in the long run by preventing possible injury or the exacerbation of symptoms.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated while exercising is always important; even more so when you have a cold. Increasing your water intake helps keep mucous membranes hydrated and reduces the chance of mucus build-up leading to further illness. Make sure to keep a water bottle with you during your exercise session and constantly sip on it throughout the workout in order to stay hydrated. Electrolytes are also crucial for proper nourishment when exercising, so make sure to consume drinks that are loaded with electrolytes such as coconut water or sports drinks.


In conclusion, there is some evidence to suggest that exercising while you have a cold may benefit your immune system and help you feel slightly better. Increasing your body temperature with exercise can kill virus cells, making it harder for them to replicate and spread. However, the increased exertion can also make you more susceptible to an illness if the virus is particularly contagious or if you work out too hard. To avoid making a cold worse with exercise, it’s important to listen to your body and scale back the intensity if you start feeling more fatigued than usual. It is also recommended that you wait until most of the symptoms of a cold have passed before beginning any type of strenuous activity. Doing this can help reduce your chances of exacerbating existing symptoms and of further taxing an already weakened immune system.

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