Working Out With a Cold? –What you should know

Your nose is running and your head is pounding. You’re sick, sure, but should you really disrupt your workout routine and stay in bed? 

Here’s the thing: a slight runny nose isn’t the same as a severe cold. Here, we’ll explain how to tell the difference, which sports you can still enjoy despite a cold and when you should probably avoid them altogether.  

It’s just a runny nose! Can I still exercise? 

The cold season is in full swing, and it often starts with a runny nose. As long as you don’t develop any other symptoms like a sore throat, fever or a cough, you don’t need to avoid sports at all. Practice moderation, of course, but otherwise you can stick to your routine. In fact, a workout can have a healing effect as it increases blood flow to your mucus membranes. 

Jogging, biking and swimming are a few sports that you can practice without any problems. The important thing is that you feel fit and don’t overwork your body, meaning that it’s probably a good idea to go a bit slower and take it easy on yourself. 

What happens when you work out with a bad cold? 

It got you. Bad. When you’re plagued with a sore throat, cough, and fever, you should definitely swap out your running shoes for a warm bed. When your body is fighting a virus, it weakens your immune system, meaning your body has plenty of work to do ridding you of that annoying cold. If you drag yourself to the gym for a strenuous workout, it’s an additional burden for your already busy body. 

What’s more, working out during an illness is not without risks. Training while your body is in a weakened state could have some negative impacts:

  • The symptoms could become worse and the cold more intense.
  • You’ll keep delaying your healing, meaning you’ll have to deal with the cold for longer than necessary. 
  • In rare cases, this could result in myocarditis, or an inflammation of the heart muscles.  

These risks should not be taken lightly, particularly myocarditis, which can be fatal. In most cases, the symptoms are relatively unspecific and may not even be noticeable. Weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath during exercise can indicate myocarditis and should always be addressed by a doctor. Untreated symptoms can result in cardiac arrhythmia or even heart failure, which can lead to death if left untreated. 

So, if you have the flu or a bad cold, consult your doctor about how and when you can exercise safely. And until then: give your body the rest it needs and cuddle up with a cup of ginger tea. 

How long of a training break do I need to take? 

Your symptoms are improving and you aren’t as stuffed as you were a few days ago. Super: things seem to be looking up again! What does that mean for your workout routine?

A few general rules:

  • If it was just a light cold with no fever, you can pick up where you left off as soon as the symptoms are completely gone. 
  • If you did have a fever and were taking medication, you should take a break for at least a week before heading back to the gym. Again, check with your doctor to be sure. 

In both cases, it is important that you take it step by step when you return to your workout routine and slowly build up your endurance again. If you start exerting yourself right away, the cold could come back quickly. Therefore, you should play it safe—start with light endurance training and slowly work your way back to your old training routine. Your body will thank you for it!

(The advice in this article do not replace a medical consultation. If in doubt, please always consult your doctor. Enjoy your sports!)


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