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Should you exercise when you have a cold?

Posted by Sophie Saint

As the wind takes on a sharper temperature, we’re all bound to be stricken with a snotty cold or feverish flu at some point in the coming months. Getting sick is the worst, especially when it feels like it’s putting you out of action. But when you have the sniffles and have a workout routine which you loathe to let slip, it’s time to learn whether you should exercise when you have a cold!

Adults get an average of 2 - 3 colds a year, and they can vary with intensity. Obviously, if you can barely walk, see or speak, then get to bed you crazy fool! They say there’s no rest for the wicked, but you become the wicked one if you drag yourself to the gym and end up spreading your germs. But when you can feel you’re on the road to recovery from your cold, your body may benefit from exercise and help rejuvenate your energy levels.

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So time to delve into whether you should work out when you have a cold, when it’s relatively safe for you to get back to fitness, and what we suggest you should do to ease your way back into your routine.


Should you exercise when you have a cold?

So how are you feeling?

Eugh. you wake up and feel like pure DEATH - welcome to your winter cold. There are two things to consider when deciding whether or not to hit the gym when you’re feeling under the weather: 

  • Are your symptoms above the neck (runny nose, mild cough, sneezing, watery eyes, stuffy sinuses)
  • Do you have the energy to workout?

If the answer to both is yes, then you're probably clear to workout. If your cold is more on the chest, and includes an upset stomach, vomiting or a fever, you have permission to hunker down with soup, duvet and Netflix. Don’t try push yourself - you could end up feeling worse or take longer to recover.

When you’re initially struck by a cold, stay home. You’ll be contagious for the first 5 - 7 days and you should rest to allow the immune system to recover. Take in lots of fluids (alcohol doesn’t count, so put down that Hot Toddy) and steer away from sugar - bye bye chocolate!

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So you feel you can make it to your workout?

If your symptoms are mild enough to power through, then it's important to remember that your immune system is compromised and you should re-assess the intensity of your workouts. Steer away from powerful HIIT workouts, sprinting and intense bootcamps or you could feel totally wiped and dejected from not being at your usual standard. 


Exercise tips for when you have a cold:

Switch running for walking:

Rug up and do some power walking in fresh air. 20 - 30 minutes can help improve your symptoms and breathing deeply can assist in unplugging your sinuses.

Switch bootcamp for yoga:

Get involved in slow practices. It will help blood circulation, plus a study by Washington State University found that Iyengar Yoga could indeed boost your immunity! It’s believed that doing yoga three times a week helps decrease stress massively, which helps improve immunity.

Switch lifting weights with body weight exercises:

Instead of hitting the gym and covering equipment with germs, do some low intensity body weight exercises at home - squats, sit-ups, tricep dips and gentle resistance band sequences can help top up your fitness when you’re feeling full of cold.

Switch spinning for actual cycling:

Spinning will likely knacker you when your energy is low, so grab an actual bicycle and go for a gentle ride in your neighbourhood. Again, fresh air will work wonders… and there’s no screaming instructor stopping you from getting off and pushing when you need a rest.

Read more: 10 awesome home workouts for when it’s too cold to leave the house

 Gentle exercises when feeling ill - credit - bruno-nascimento-149663.jpg


Some final thoughts exercising and the common cold:

  • You can begin regular exercise after 7 - 10 days with the average cold - start small and build up to the usual FULL POWER of your workouts as your energy levels improve.
  • If you do rest up, feel safe (and a little bit smug) in the knowledge that fit people recover from illnesses quicker and experience milder symptoms.
  • And if you make it to the gym, be sure to thoroughly wipe down all equipment after use to avoid passing your germs on to anyone else!
  • On a side note… if you want to AVOID catching other people’s germs at the gym, then follow these top tips.


The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body - don't force yourself to workout if you're not feeling up to it. Don’t let the sickness get you down and be safe in the knowledge that you’ll quickly catch up on any missed fitness when you’re feeling full of health! Take a look at the below ace inforgraphic to get the full downlow on how to return to exercise.



 Credit: precisionnutrition.com


Topics: Fitness and motivation, Health and happiness

Written by Sophie Saint

Sophie Saint

Exercise used to always terrify me, until I was forced to face it head-on with an impending surfing trip. I entered the world of MoveGB and never looked back.... Yoga, gym sessions and the odd round with a punchbag opened up my eyes to getting active and feeling awesome from it! Travelling, social media and blogging are what I love both in and out of work. And Turn'd Up dance has become a serious obsession now...

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