Q&A: Is It OK To Exercise When I Have A Cold

(Originally posted January 4, 2012)

Before the ink dried on my own new year’s fitness resolutions, the universe conspired to give me a one-two punch right back into bed with a cold. That got me thinking about the time back in college when I saw others “push through” a cold with exercise. My try at the same routine, back then, landed me in the infirmary with a case of Mono. So, is it a good idea to work out when you’re sick or not?

The answer: It depends on the kind of cold and what your body is telling you.

Don’t exercise if you have: a fever, widespread muscle aches or fatigue; if your symptoms are “below the neck”—like diarrhea, upset stomach, chest congestion, or hacking cough.

However, it may be ok to exercise if your signs and symptoms are all “above the neck” — symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, minor sore throat. If you choose to exercise when you have a mild cold, I recommend that you reduce the intensity and length of your workout so as not to risk more serious injury or illness.. Be aware that when you train hard, your body needs to repair the muscles that have been worked and this can further weaken your immune system. Take it easy. Go for a walk, not a run, for instance. Also, be considerate, and don’t contaminate others at the gym.

Listen to what your body is telling you! If you feel miserable, take the day off or even a week off. The few days won’t really affect performance. Be sure to resume your normal routine gradually as you start to feel better. Check with your Doctor if you’re still unsure if it’s OK to work out.

If you have other fitness questions, feel free to send a message and I’ll try and answer them here.


Laskowski, Edward R. M.D. Exercise and illness: Work out with a cold?

(June 18, 2011) Retrieved from:http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/AN01097

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