Should You Work Out with a Cold?

You've got the sniffles, your throat is scratchy, and your head feels like someone gently (or not so gently) whacked it with a hammer. You've got a cold. Welcome to the club!

It's that time of year... the common cold just loves to sneak up on you in fall and winter, when temps are dropping, you're stressed out, and the sun is heading to bed much earlier than we're used to. Unfortunately, there's no magic cure for the common cold (other than rest and chicken noodle soup, of course). You can take Vitamin C to help prevent it, but once you've got it, it has to run it's course.

The question is, can you still work out with a cold?

Working out with a cold

The general rule is that if the discomfort is above your neck (a head cold), you can work out. But we're talking moderate activity levels here. Intense activity, such as high-impact cardio or weight lifting, has been shown to weaken the immune system and have a negative impact on your body's ability to fight a cold or infection. If you're sick below the neck (respiratory infections) you'd be better off just staying in bed.

Here's an excerpt from an article written by a Navy Seals Trainer
But back to the question. The rule is: If your chest is congested, you have a fever, chills, dehydrated, or any other cold ailment from the neck down, DO NOT WORKOUT. Chest congestion and any type of exercise do not mix well. Aerobic or anaerobic activity can overwork your heart and can cause your chest cold to develop into a bronchitis or pneumonia. Lifting weights can naturally increase blood pressure. Combined with over working your heart, you can really cause damage if not careful when exercising while ill. Plus — you don't want to bring your germs to the gym either.

However, if you have a head cold with minor sinus pain, sniffles, sneezing, etc., it is fine to workout as long as you have a normal energy level and are not feeling sluggish. Be careful not to overdo your activity with high-intensity workouts. You need to drop your intensity level a bit because your body is using energy to fight whatever it is that's making you feel ill. Keep hydrated by drinking 3-4 quarts of water a day and eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. This will enable your body to fight off the bug causing your symptoms.

Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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