Staying home when you have a contagious illness like the flu is key to slowing the spread of sickness, but many of us believe a simple cold is no reason to stop everyday life. Workouts are an important part of many of our everyday routines, but is it one to give up for a few days while you fight a cold?
The answers are mixed when it comes to exercise and colds. Some studies have indicated that exercise can help prevent colds by boosting the immune system but others suggest that high-intensity exercise, including exercise in extreme temperatures and high altitudes, can be detrimental to your health particularly when you are sick.
Let’s take a look at the negative side effects of exercising with a cold before we get into the positive side. High-intensity exercise and working out in extreme temperatures or high altitudes can put significant stress on the heart and central nervous system. Working out in such environments can lead to potentially deadly symptoms such as:
- Hyperthermia. Body temps can reach up to 103℉ during a workout and you are more likely to reach an extreme temperature like this when you are sick. Hyperthermia can lead to dehydration, confusion, nausea, vomiting, fast heartbeat, and may potentially damage internal organs.
- Dehydration, which can lead to a number of serious problems like low potassium and low sodium.
- Hypoxia, or lower oxygen levels.
When It’s Okay to Workout
Although intense exercise should be avoided during a cold, moderate exercise may help prevent a cold or help you get over it faster, according to certain studies that suggest regular moderate workouts boost the immune system. The general recommendation for exercising during a cold is that if your symptoms are above the chest, it’s probably okay to workout. It’s okay to head to the gym if you:
- Have mild symptoms
- Have an earache, but be mindful that fluid buildup in the ear can affect balance
- Have a stuffy nose or sore throat. Reduce the intensity of your workout if a stuffy nose leads to difficulty breathing.
You should avoid exercise if your cold symptoms include:
- A fever
- Chest congestion
- Stomach symptoms
You should also seek care from your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. They may be signs of a more serious sickness such as flu or coronavirus.
Types of Exercises to Perform During a Cold
Low to moderate impact is the way to go during a cold. Walking is always a perfect exercise for any occasion including while you fight a cold. Low impact aerobics, weight lifting, and using low-impact exercise machines like the elliptical or bicycle are also approved. You should, however, avoid yoga and other exercises that require balance or upside-down positions. Those particular workouts can aggravate cold symptoms.
Before Your First Workout
Before you head to the gym for your first workout during a cold, contact your provider to make sure it’s okay. Consulting with your provider about exercise is especially important if you have an underlying medical condition in addition to your cold. The providers at EliteCare are conveniently available seven days a week so you never have to wait to consult with them about your health. Stop by our clinic anytime during regular hours to visit with your provider.