Wondering if you should exercise if you have a cold?
Got the sniffles? A sore throat, or nagging cough?
It’s cold and flu season. And if you’re feeling crummy, you may be wondering if you should go to the gym or for your run or walk, or skip it in favor of chicken soup and the couch.
The answer: It depends. If your cold symptoms are above the neck only — runny nose, sore throat — go ahead and exercise, according to advice from the American College of Sports Medicine. Just don’t overdo it.
If your have fever, a respiratory infection, swollen glands, or aches and pains throughout your body, skip the workout and stay in bed.
The ACSM says that if you do have run-of-the-mill cold symptoms — runny nose or sore throat, but no fever or body aches — and you are going to exercise, make it a mild to moderate workout. Thirty to 45 minutes of walking or running is fine. But a long training run in preparation for a marathon is probably not a good idea.
Research studies have shown that moderate exercise boosts the immune system, so if you get regular exercise, you’ll probably get fewer colds than your sedentary co-workers, according to the ACSM. But intense training sessions, such as a two- to three-hour run, results in a steep drop in immune function that can last 6 to 9 hours.
Athletes can resume intense training a few days after common cold symptoms disappear, but should wait a couple of weeks before going back to intense workouts if they’ve had a more serious cold or the flu.
Also, the ACSM recommends moderate exercise before getting a flu shot. The body responds better to the vaccine after exercise, it says.
Here’s a link to the ACSM's advice for whether to exercise if you’ve got a cold.