June 18, 2018

Can I exercise when I have a cold?

By dryeongs

Photo by Justyn Warner on Unsplash

It being winter in Australia, many people might be wondering if it is safe to exercise when you have a cold.



Welcome to Post #1 in my “Can I exercise…” series.

You might be training for a competition, or you have very specific goals you are working towards, and you’re worried that if you take some time off, you might go backwards.

The answer to this question depends on a few things.

Listen to your body. If you’re feeling unwell, your muscles are aching, you have fevers, your head is pounding and all you want to do is curl up in bed? Listen to your body! It’s giving you those signals for a reason. Our body recovers from infections best when we take it easy and allow it to do its thing. Doing a strenuous workout can affect your immune system’s ability to recover from an infection. If, on the other hand, it’s just a bit of a runny nose but you otherwise feel fine, then it’s probably okay to exercise. Be sensible and listen to your body.

Are you overtraining? Sometimes coming down with a cold is a sign that you are overdoing it with your training and your body needs a rest. When it comes to exercise, like all things, more is not always better. You need a balance of stress and rest, to allow your muscles to recover and become stronger. Constant stress on your muscles prevents this improvement.

Do you have other medical problems? One good example of this is asthma, which is very common in Australia. If you have asthma, and you’re finding you need your Ventolin more than usual, then it’s safe to say you shouldn’t exercise, no matter how much you want to. If your breathing tubes are already inflamed and constricted from a viral infection, exercise may make that worse and trigger off a complete asthma attack- which can be life threatening.

Ultimately, this question can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. It is always safest to see your GP or family doctor if you are concerned about your symptoms, and always safest to check with them first about whether you can exercise, rather than depend on an online article telling you what to do. But if you are worried, then do the safest thing, and take a break for a few days. No competition or physical goal is worth risking your health.