Does Working Out with a Cold Help?

A lot of people believe that working out with a cold can help them feel better, but is it actually true?


Exercising when you have a cold can be tricky. While it feels like a good idea to sweat it out, there are both pros and cons to working out with a cold. Knowing the risks and rewards will help you decide whether exercising or taking a rest day is best when you don’t feel your best.

The short answer is that exercise can both help and harm your body when dealing with a cold or other illness. While light activity, like walking, may help loosen phlegm in your lungs and clear congestion, high-intensity exercise could put too much pressure on your heart rate and weaken your immune system even further. Therefore, understanding the intensity of your physical activity is an important way to evaluate the risks involved in exercising with a cold.

What is a Cold?

A cold is a viral infection that is caused by a variety of different pathogens. It is usually characterized by a sore throat, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. A cold is typically a mild illness and it’s important to know that it is highly contagious. It can last up to two weeks and it’s important to understand how to tell the difference between a cold and a flu.

Symptoms of a Cold

A cold is generally a milder upper respiratory infection caused by the common cold virus. Symptoms of a cold can include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, congestion and a general feeling of fatigue. A cold may last anywhere from three to 14 days, and while typically benign it is important to practice good hygiene as you recover such as regularly washing your hands and avoiding contact with others who may be infected. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help relieve some symptoms; however it is important to see a doctor if pain persists or symptoms worsen.

It is not recommended that you engage in physical activity while suffering from a cold; however, moderate activity may help boost your energy levels and improve the flow of mucus in your body which in turn can aid with the recovery process. Even if engaging in physical activity seems to reduce the severity of some common cold symptoms, it cannot clear an active infection so be sure to rest during this time to support your body’s natural healing process.

Common Causes of Colds

The common cold is one of the most widespread illnesses in the world, and is caused by a variety of viruses. Causes of colds are highly contagious and can be spread through person-to-person contact, contact with infected surfaces, or by breathing in airborne particles from sneezing or coughing. While adults typically get two to three colds per year, children may be more susceptible due to their immune systems not being fully developed.

Common causes of colds include but are not limited to rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, parainfluenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), coronaviruses, and metapneumovirus (MPV). Rhinoviruses are the most common cause accounting for 30-50% of adults’ infections while RSV is more commonly seen in infants and young children. Other less frequent causes may include human bocavirus (HBoV), enteroviruses and enteric cytopathogenic human orphan (ECHO) virus.

While it is generally recommended that people with a cold avoid strenuous physical activity such as working out until they are feeling better due to increased risk for complications such as asthma attacks or exacerbation of symptoms, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that moderate physical activity can cause any harm when an individual has developed a mild illness associated with the common cold.

Can You Work Out With a Cold?

Working out with a cold can be a difficult decision. On one hand, physical activity can help improve your mood, boost your immune system, and provide many other benefits. On the other hand, if you have a cold, you may be feeling weak and exhausted, and working out could make it worse. So, can you work out with a cold? Let’s dig into the details and explore what experts have to say about this topic.

Benefits of Working Out With a Cold

Exercising while you’re feeling a bit under the weather can have both positive and negative outcomes, so it’s important to assess your condition carefully before considering working out with a cold. Mild symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose and mild sore throat may respond positively to continued physical activity. In fact, exercise may improve your breathing by increasing air circulation in your nasal passages and opening up blocked nasal passageways. Increased movement also helps to relieve discomfort caused by pressure on the chest or abdomen due to mucus buildup in these areas.

Moderate-intensity activities like walking or biking can be very beneficial while dealing with a cold since they are typically aerobic-based and do not require too much effort or exertion. Low impact exercises such as yoga or tai chi are also beneficial since they help strengthen the body while improving flexibility and balance. Other advantages of regular exercise include improved circulation which helps reduce inflammation of the respiratory system, increased immune system efficiency by increasing the immune response to illness and helping reduce fever-causing toxins associated with colds. Working out during a cold is also believed to help speed up recovery time from illnesses like the common cold by flushing out more toxins from your body at a faster rate than if you were resting in bed all day.

Risks of Working Out With a Cold

When you’re considering working out with a cold, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of your decision. Working out with a cold can be dangerous, as it can put additional stress on your already-weakened body. This can cause further respiratory and/or circulatory strain, leading to long-term damage or developing into a more serious health issue. Some of the potential risks when exercising with a cold include:

-Increased symptoms: Exercise may make your symptoms worse and increase inflammation in the lungs and airways, leading to difficulty breathing.
-Decreased aerobic performance: Symptoms of the common cold can decrease your level of physical performance by up to 20%.
-Increased risk for dehydration: Exercising while you’re recovering from a cold could lead to greater fluid loss than normal.
-Infectiousness spread: You can spread the infection to others through sweat or coughing/sneezing while exercising at an indoor gym or in closer proximity with other people.

It’s important that before making any decisions about exercising while sick, you speak to your doctor or healthcare professional for individualized advice. Your doctor can provide expert advice on how best to manage your symptoms and determine if exercise is appropriate for you at this time.

Tips For Working Out With a Cold

Working out with a cold may sound like a bad idea, but it can actually have some benefits. It can help to reduce congestion, reduce inflammation, and boost your immune system. However, it is important that you take necessary precautions to avoid making the cold worse. Here are some tips for working out with a cold to help keep you healthy.

Stay Hydrated

It’s important to stay hydrated while working out when you have a cold. Staying well hydrated can help you fight the cold and provide extra energy to make it through your workout. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and consider other electrolyte-rich sports drinks if the activity is particularly long or strenuous. Avoid drinking too much fluids before, during, or after exercise in order to prevent hyponatremia, a dangerous condition that can occur when too much fluid is consumed.

If your cold is accompanied with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea it is best to avoid any form of exercise altogether and take time for rest as this could be a sign of an infection such as bronchitis or even the flu. Additionally, if you develop any feverish symptoms such as shivering, sweating decreases in performance ability due to dry mouth and throat it is best to discontinue exercising until those symptoms recede.

Choose Low-Intensity Workouts

It’s normal to feel some chest congestion, a slight cough, or body aches when fighting off a cold. Despite having these common cold symptoms, it may be tempting to push through with a vigorous workout. However, it’s generally not advised to perform highly intense exercises when feeling under the weather. This is because your energy levels are likely lower than usual and your body needs extra rest in order to recover from an illness faster.

Instead of trying to finish an intense HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) session or lift heavy weights at the gym, stick with low-intensity workouts and light stretching exercises during the cold. This will help conserve energy for the healing process and enhance recovery time by allowing your body to focus its energy on fighting the infection. Low-intensity activities such as walking, yoga, strength training with lighter weights or Pilates can help improve your circulation while engaging key muscle groups – all without overworking your system and potentially prolonging recovery time. After all, coming down with a cold isn’t necessarily an excuse to pause your normal fitness regimen: it just means you have to do it more consciously and at a different intensity level.

Take Breaks

When you have a cold, working out can be an uphill battle. Your body is already exhausted from fighting the cold, and being active could make you feel even worse. But that doesn’t mean you have to take a break from physical activity altogether. You just need to adjust your routine and be aware of how your body is feeling.

One of the most important tips for working out with a cold is to take breaks. It’s essential to listen to your body — if you’re feeling fatigued or experiencing more severe symptoms, then it’s best to rest until those pass. Don’t try to push through if you are too exhausted; it won’t help speed up your recovery process, and over-exertion will only make you feel worse in the long run. When planning your workout routine while sick, aim for shorter sessions with frequent breaks if needed — this way, you won’t overexert yourself but still get some exercise in.


In conclusion, working out when you have a cold can provide you with some benefits and should be done with caution. Although it may not be the best choice if you are feeling severely ill or are experiencing any other symptom that would indicate an infection, such as sore throat or chest pain. Generally, mild symptoms like congestion, minor sore throat, and fatigue are manageable while exercising at a lower intensity than usual. If any of the workout’s symptoms become too uncomfortable or worsen, it is advised to stop exercising and seek medical attention if necessary. As long as the exercise intensity is taking into consideration and any associated risks are understood, then it is safe to work out when suffering from a cold.

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