Should I Work Out If I Have a Cold?

Health Professional

According to the Mayo Clinic, mild to moderate physical activity is usually fine if you have a common cold and no fever. Exercise may even have the added benefit of opening up your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion. Moving around can also prevent some of the stiffness associated with having a cold. However, there are some things you should keep in mind before you exercise with a cold.

Where your symptoms are located

If your symptoms are all above your neck, such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing, exercise is usually OK. However, if you are experiencing shortness of breath or coughing, you should probably forego the workout.

Whether you are running a fever

Most of the time when you get a cold, you will not have a fever. However, depending on the virus and your body’s reaction, you may have a fever with the cold. If you do, that is a sign that your body is working hard to fight an invader. In this case, you should save your energy to combat the virus and skip the workout.

If your stomach is involved

A constant nasal drip can cause an upset stomach. If your gastrointestinal system is involved, you run the risk of being dehydrated if you work out. Especially if you are experiencing diarrhea or nausea or vomiting, you should wait on exercise and drink plenty of fluids instead.

What medications you are taking

Taking decongestants is a common practice when you have a cold. However, according to Harvard Medical School, pseudoephedrine is a common ingredient in cold medicine. Pseudoephedrine constricts blood vessels in the nose and sinuses. It also tightens blood vessels throughout the body, which could increase blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, working out with pseudoephedrine in your system could put you at greater risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Bottom line

If you have a cold, listen to your body. If you feel better when you exercise, continue to move at a comfortable pace. If you feel bad, then take a break. Pushing yourself when you are not operating at full speed could cause your illness to get worse or linger. Taking a few days off from exercise will probably not reduce your performance long-term, and may even give your body a much-needed break.

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Updated by: Tracy Davenport