Is a Workout Bad for a Cold?

It’s a pretty well-known fact that regular exercise can boost the immune system and help to fight off common illnesses such as colds. In people who exercised regularly, it was found that they had more active immune systems, which is crucial when fighting off things such as colds and flu.

But what if you already have a cold? Can exercising do any harm or is it better to simply lie down until you feel better?

Is workout bad for cold

If you do regular exercise but you have a cold, it can be very annoying to miss time at the gym. Additionally, those who have colds and play sports might be thinking that rest and recuperation is the better option. So is it okay to do any exercise at all when you have a cold? Is workout bad for cold? The short answer is: it all depends on what your body is saying to you.

The longer and more detailed answer takes into account a number of factors. In general, it’s okay to work out and do some exercise when you have a cold. In fact, it can even be beneficial at times.

Having said that, there are definitely times when you might want to avoid a strenuous workout. If you have a high fever, for example, exercising will increase your heart rate and your body temperature. In this context, it is best avoided.

Furthermore, if you already have a medical complication along with your cold, exercise might just be too much for your body to deal with. A great example of this is having asthma. Many people suffer from asthma when they have a respiratory virus such as a cold. Doing exercise can worsen asthma symptoms and this may lead to the need for medical intervention.

So are there any advantages to working out when you have a cold? The good news is that it can have a positive impact. Exercising may not decrease the time that you have the cold but if you have a cough and congestion in the lungs, light to moderate exercise can actually help to break up all of that phlegm and mucous.

In this context, exercising can actually be of great benefit and may improve symptoms and even reduce the duration of the cold itself.

How to Listen to Your Body

So how do you know if your body is okay to do some exercise? If you’re thinking about doing some exercise, here are some signs that it’s probably okay to do so:

  • You have fairly mild cold symptoms, such as sneezing and a runny nose.
  • You’re not running a fever and you’re not feeling lethargic.
  • You have motivation to exercise.

So, when is workout bad for cold? Here are some signs that you probably shouldn’t be engaging in exercise:

  • Your cough is quite sever
  • You have a fever that requires medication and you feel either hot or cold and clammy.
  • Your body is aching.
  • You have other related symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
  • You have asthma and need regular medication for it.
  • You have another underlying health condition.

This last point about having an underlying health condition is important. When people have colds, it tends to exacerbate any other health conditions that they might have. For example, if you have a heart condition, doing some exercise is not going to be a good idea. The combined stress of having a cold and increasing the heart rate through exercise may just be too much.

If You Do Plan to Exercise

If you feel okay to exercise, it’s actually very important to remain hydrated. This is doubly so if you also have a cold or a flu. Drinking plenty of water during this time will help to thin out mucous and phlegm, for example. This can aid in getting rid of congestion.

It’s also worth reiterating that it’s still important to listen to your body even when you think that you’re okay to exercise. Being sick does place some stress on the body as the immune system fights it and exercise, while generally not bad, can definitely amplify some symptoms.

If you feel dizzy or experience some deterioration of your health whilst exercising, it’s time to stop immediately, take a rest, and drink plenty of water.

What Exercises Can You Do?

If you’re unsure about what exercises you can do when you have a cold, here are some that are usually quite safe and even recommended:

  • Walking:
    If you’re not up to a heavy and intense workout, walking is probably a very good compromise. It’s a fairly light exercise and is usually not going to exacerbate cold symptoms too much. In fact, walking around can even help to free up blocked sinuses and break up congestion.
  • Jogging:
    If you’re normally used to a heavier workout and you feel up to it, a light to moderate jog can do wonders. Many people who jog when they have colds say that it makes them feel better. There’s truth to this because, as with walking, jogging can help to clear out the lungs and the sinuses.

What Exercises Should You Avoid?

There are definitely some kinds of exercises that you should avoid when you have a cold, including:

  • Endurance training:
    Running for long distances and any kind of endurance training, such as for a triathlon or marathon, are not a good idea when you have a cold. Even though exercise can stimulate the immune response, too much of it can make you feel absolutely lousy and actually suppress the immune system.
  • Going to the gym:
    This one is not so much about making your symptoms worse as it is about social etiquette. If you have a cold or flu, it’s not a good idea to spread it around to other people. If you plan on going to the gym when you have a cold, you might want to reconsider. Spreading it around to other people there is not a good idea.


If you have a cold and you’re thinking about doing some exercise, the best idea is to listen to what your body is telling you. Do you have a fever? Do you have another health condition? In general, it’s safe to exercise but there are some questions to be asked.

Paul J

Last Updated on August 20, 2021