Should You Exercise (Cough) When You Have A Cold?

By Amy Morlock, DPT – Bel Air, Maryland Center

It’s that time of year when everyone around you is sick. Despite your best efforts to stay germ-free, you too may soon notice that your nose is running or you have a cough.

But should you still get in your daily workout?

Mild to moderate exercise with a common cold and no fever usually is safe, but be smart and listen to your body. You shouldn’t begin an exercise regimen when you’re sick, but if your body is used to regular exercise, mild intensity should be fine.

Be aware that:

  • Some medical sources suggest these general guidelines regarding symptoms: “above your neck, head to the gym; below the neck, stay home.” 1,2
  • Exercise increases your heart rate, and some medications do as well. Be careful that the combination doesn’t increase your heart rate to unsafe levels. Examples of these medications, which usually fall under the decongestant category, include Sudafed, Mucinex, DayQuil, NyQuil, AlkaSeltzer Plus.3 If you have any questions, review the information on the medication package or consult your doctor.
  • If you have asthma or another condition that makes it difficult to breathe, a cold may increase the chance of coughing or wheezing, causing you to be shorter of breath, so take extra breaks as needed.
  • Don’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue, widespread muscle aches or a more serious illness as the stress of exercise may slow your recovery.1

If you are unsure whether you should exercise with your particular illness, and before embarking on any exercise program, please consult with your doctor.

If rather than a cold, there’s an injury or some other type of pain that’s keeping you from exercising, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Should You Exercise With A Cold - Drayer Physical Therapy


1. Laskowski, Edward R., M.D. “Is it OK to exercise if I have a cold?” Exercise and Illness: Work out with a cold? Mayo Clinic, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 1 Feb. 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20058494.

2. Hainer, Ray. “Signs you’re too sick to work out” CNN Health, 12 March, 2009. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/10/too.sick.to.work.out/index.html?s=PM:HEALTH.

3. “Decongestants.” Drugs.com. Web 2 Feb. 2017. https://www.drugs.com/drug-class/decongestants.html.

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