Should I Exercise When I’m Suffering From A Cold?


Let’s get some real-talk going on. Many of us live in urban areas where human contact is inevitable. No matter how much we take care of our health, we’re probably going to suffer from a cold at some point.

For some of us, exercise is a part of our lives which we are usually unwilling to compromise, particularly if we have specific weight loss goals. And that is a good thing! The question on our minds is therefore whether it would be a good idea to keep on exercising when one is suffering from the common cold.

I wish I could give you a simple yes or no answer but I can’t. The most commonly accepted answer to this question is that it really depends on the symptoms. On this note, the same virus can manifest itself differently in different people, which is precisely why the elderly and immune-compromised people usually suffer more when they do have a cold.

In general, if symptoms are from above the neck, and not too severe, moderate exercise won’t hurt you and might even be beneficial. These include sore throat, a light headache or runny nose. However, use your own judgment – this is not a blanket rule, just a very general guideline.

If symptoms are below the neck, however, you should try to avoid exercise until you start recovering. These symptoms include having a fever, a congested chest or any muscular or joint aches and pains. The reason why this is not recommended is because these are systemic symptoms – ie the whole body is affected.

The reason for these generalisations is actually really simple. In the case of mild illness, exercise has been shown to help boost immunity and may speed up the recovery process, although not by much. In the case of systemic illnesses, exercise can actually prolong your illness duration and might even be dangerous.

PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay
PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

The latter advice might not be any consolation to those with specific training or weight loss goals. I completely understand it, because I’m one of those types too! The way to deal with this is to think about things in the long-term. Don’t think of a period of illness as robbing your goals away, but just putting it momentarily on hold.

Furthermore, if you think about it, having a break from your routine will not undo all the hard work you have put in before, as long as you are smart about it. For example, if you are exercising for weight loss, use the illness period to consume less unhealthy food to partially compensate for the exercise you’re missing out on.

The next part is the most important – easing your way back into your fitness. When you feel that you are partially recovered, you can start going back to the routine with some simple low-intensity exercises, just to get your body back used to exercising, and getting the blood flowing as well.

You have to do it systematically and gradually. Don’t push yourself too hard to make up for lost time. It would be unwise to force your way back to your previous routine, particularly if it is an intense one. Remember – you are making a start to resuming your original intensity.

And once you get back into the swing of things and are fully recovered, stick to the original program. Research has shown that people who exercise frequently report fewer colds and other flu-like bugs than their inactive peers. Furthermore, exercise also boosts the immune system, so you will be in a good position.

I hope this serves you well. Remember to take your time to recover, but stick to your goals aight?

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