If you have a cold, should you exercise?

Print on Demand

Yes and no. Moderate exercise (30 minutes a day, on most, if not all, days of the week) actually lowers your risk for respiratory infections, said David C. Nieman from the American College of Sports Medicine. But prolonged, intense exercise, on the other hand, can weaken your immune system and allow viruses to gain a foothold and spread. If you’re already sick with a respiratory infection (common cold or flu), approach exercise cautiously during your illness. To help you decide whether to hit the gym or stay in bed, Dr. Nieman says this:


DO exercise moderately if your cold symptoms are confined to your head. If you’re dealing with a runny nose or sore throat, moderate exercise is okay. Intense exercise can be continued a few days after symptoms go away (in cases of the common cold).


DON’T sweat out your illness. Exercise during an illness does NOT help cure it.


DO stay in bed if your illness has spread beyond your head. Respiratory infections, fever, swollen glands, and extreme aches and pains all indicate that you should rest up, not work out.


DON’T jump back in too soon. If you’re recovering from a more serious bout of cold or flu, gradually ease back into exercise after at least 2 weeks of rest.


“In general, if your symptoms are from the neck up, go ahead and take a walk,” said Dr. Nieman. “But if you have a fever or general aches and pains, rest up and let your body get over the illness.”

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


The American Institute for Preventive Medicine (AIPM) is not responsible for the availability or content of external sites, nor does AIPM endorse them. Also, it is the responsibility of the user to examine the copyright and licensing restrictions of external pages and to secure all necessary permission.


The content on this website is proprietary. You may not modify, copy, reproduce, republish, upload, post, transmit, or distribute, in any manner, the material on the website without the written permission of AIPM.