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  • Writer's pictureLisa Magnuson

AH-CHOO! Should I workout if I have a cold?

Updated: Dec 8, 2022


First, we want to thank everyone who participated in our "Burn the Bird" beach workout. We also wanted to let you all know that with your generosity we raised over $1950 for the Make A Wish organization.

Rio, (Elin's Make a Wish pony) will be joining our family on Monday. HOORAY!!!!

Now.... to the actual post.

In my experience there are two types of sick people- those who believe that they must take it easy, rest and isolate themselves from others, and others who believe if they can keep up a normal pace it will all just go away and they will be fine. Where there is space to speak about mindset, if you are actually ill, mindset as far as ignoring the illness, will not serve you well. However, staying in bed with a small sniffle and cough, may be a bit of overkill also. When deciding whether or not to stay home, or go to work/school everyone makes several calculations.

  1. How much work will I miss and is it worth a day of rest if I have to make it up later?

  2. How does my staying home affect others (co-workers, classmates, family members, etc)

  3. Will I feel guilty about taking time to recover and do I want to deal with that emotional drama as well?

  4. What if I go into work/school and get others ill?

While I can't advise you on how to answer these questions, it is always good to acknowledge the pluses and minuses of every decision you make. When it comes to whether or not to workout when you are ill, there is a pretty clear roadmap to follow. This is my advice and how I make the decision whether working out would be beneficial or possibly harmful while I'm under the weather. Is it a head cold? If it's just a runny nose, small headache and sore throat, chances are a light workout won't harm you. However, if it's below your neck (like you feel achy, have a hacking cough, or have GI issues and stomach upset) it's usually best to skip the workout. There have been multiple studies conducted to help shed light on whether working out with a cold can make you sicker. In one such study, participants were infected with the common cold virus and 1/2 worked out and the other 1/2 did not. There were no meaningful findings as far as length and severity of symptoms was concerned between the two groups. So no, if you have a little cold, working out will not make it worse. How hard should I workout? Don't push it! You can't "sweat out a virus"- that's a myth. Keep in mind that your body is having an inflammatory response (to the illness) already and you will exacerbate that response by stressing it more with exercise. A moderate/light workout is fine but don't go for broke when you're not feeling 100%. Should I go to the gym? Please don't share your germs with others. Thankfully, Covid has provided a fantastic lesson in how not to spread germs and you always have the option to exercise at home and Zoom in for your workout. Masking is also an option, but if you feel really crummy, don't risk spreading your illness to others in your community. Do the warmup and see how you feel. This is my tried and true litmus test. Just do the warmup. If after 10-15 when your tissue temp rises and you have been up and down a few times, you are feeling better or decent- keep going. If you feel worse or that you have nothing in your tank, quit and call it good for the day. I hope this gives you some good advice to consider the next time you feel a little ill and aren't quite sure if you should exercise or not.


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