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Can You Exercise with a Cold?

When you're feeling under the weather with a cold or severe allergies, exercising might be the last thing you feel like doing. But some people swear by exercising to help keep the body active and their energy up . Others may be reluctant to leave breaks in their regular workout routine unless absolutely necessary. But how safe is it to exercise when sick? How should you adjust your routine? Read on to learn about exercising while sick.


Dehydrated Exercising Sick

Is It Safe?

Mild to moderate physical activity is okay during some sicknesses, say experts. But this answer comes with a number of caveats. The first and most important is to listen to your body, and pay attention to your symptoms. Exercising with a cold is usually fine if you only have common cold symptoms, what doctors call an "above the neck" guideline:

  • Congestion
  • Earache
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat

Other symptoms are more concerning, and you should avoid exercise if you have these "below the neck" symptoms:

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Chest congestion
  • Frequent cough
  • Productive cough: a wet cough in which you produce mucus or phlegm.
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Physical activity with any of these symptoms can lead to worsening respiratory problems or dehydration, and can be dangerous. If you have flu-like symptoms, get some rest instead.


There's one symptom we haven't mentioned yet, and you should avoid exercise entirely if you have this: fever. Physical activity raises your body temperature, and a prolonged, high fever can have a multitude of complications, some fatal. Don't risk it.


Jogging Outside with Allergies Sneezing

Adjusting Your Routine

1. Go Easy

Many people claim that a light workout makes them feel better when they're sick, and there's evidence that when you have a mild cold or allergies, light to moderate activity can help you feel better. But you shouldn't just follow your normal routine. Take it down as many notches as you need in order to feel comfortable.

This might even involve doing a new activity! Even if you pursue high-intensity workouts when you're healthy, you won't want to do them when you're sick. Consider the following:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Mindful exercise: yoga, qi gong, and other stretching exercises.
  • Dance.
  • Light swimming: this may help open up your airways.
  • Light biking: this may dry out nasal passages, though.

Exercises to avoid include anything of a higher intensity especially when longer intervals are factored in, such as endurance and distance running, or lifting weights and other strength training. You should also avoid extremes of temperature, both heat and cold. And it goes without saying that you'll want to avoid team sports or gyms so you don't spread an illness.

2. Hydration

It's incredibly important to stay hydrated as you exercise even when healthy, and that goes double when you're sick. Even a slight rise in body temperature can require more water for your breathing and metabolic functions, and symptoms like excessive sweating, sneezing, and coughing can contribute to water loss. If you have a mild cold and continue exercise, make sure you're taking in even more water than you normally would.

3. Listening to Your Body

If you don't feel like you can do something, don't! Pursue easier activities, take frequent breaks, go at a slower pace, or skip it entirely if you don't feel up to it. There's no need to push yourself. A few days off from exercise isn't likely to affect your athletic performance when you can return to

Most importantly, if you have questions or concerns: speak with a medical professional. Exercising with a cold or bad allergies may work for some people, but it may be uncomfortable or even dangerous for others. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before taking any medication, supplements, or beginning any health regimen.

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