Your workout prescription when you have cold


Your workout prescription when you have cold

Exercise may be the last thing on your list when feeling under the weather with a cold.  And depending on the severity of the cold, it may not be a good idea. Sickness does cause stress in the body but in some cases, light to moderate physical activity may help you feel and get better quicker.

Evaluating your symptoms is a good rule of thumb when assessing your ability to exercise when sick with a cold. If the symptoms are above the neck – sneezing, sinus pressure, stuffy nose – then breaking a sweat is usually considered safe. But, listen to your body.  If you become light-headed, dizzy, overly tired or nauseated at any point, stop. 

For people who question whether exercising is a good idea when they have a cold, studies say “yes,” get and keep moving. If you feel a cold coming on or already have one, it won’t hurt to exercise. Start slowly and at a lower intensity than usual and see how you feel. Anytime you feel worse, again stop. If you have signs of a more serious infection such as a fever, swollen glands, widespread muscle aches, chest congestion, hacking cough, diarrhea, or vomiting, discontinue your workouts until you have fully recovered.

Keep in mind that a few days off from exercise when you’re sick shouldn’t affect your performance. When you begin to feel better, you should be able to resume your normal workout activity. But check with your doctor if you are not sure. 

If you do choose to exercise with a cold, reducing the intensity and length of your workout is also a wise move to make.

Best exercises for when you have a cold

So now you know that working out can be okay for a cold, what exercises are best? Here is a look at which exercises can be beneficial for helping you feel better when you have a cold:


 A 20-minute walk can do wonders for your cold.  Cold symptoms such as plugged sinuses can benefit as walking will stimulate you to take deeper breaths which can open up sinus passages. Studies have shown that the people who regularly work out tend to get sick less often.


If jogging was already part of your exercise regimen before you caught a cold, there is no reason you need to skip it if your cold is mild. Many people who regularly jog will find that continuing to jog with a cold actually helps them feel better.  Running is kind of like a natural decongestant, helping clear your head to feel normal again.

It would be wise however, to scale back on the intensity of your normal run when sick with a cold.  Your body is already working overtime to fight off the infection.  So, take it a little easier, less intense and you should be feeling better in no time.


Having a cold is placing stress on your body and what better way to relieve that stress than to do yoga.  Stress-relieving moves and controlled breathing of yoga is a perfect way to boost immunity and reduce the aches and pains related to colds and sinus infections.

Focus on easier, restorative yoga postures such as child’s pose or downward facing dog. Even consider “humming” as a Swedish study found, is a good way to open up clogged sinus passages.


When you feel a cold coming on, put on your dancing shoes and some music as dancing can be a great stress-reduction technique. One study found that people who just listened to 50 minutes of dance music had less cortisol and more cold-fighting antibodies helping boost their immune systems.

So, get up and move to the music, taking it at your own pace without putting too much stress on your joints or aggravating a cold-related sinus headache.


A gentle swim can be a very invigorating and refreshing workout even when sick with a cold. The cardio moves from swimming can be a good way to help clear congestion and boost energy levels. For people who suffer from allergies, it can also help wash away pollen and dust.

However, some may find a dip in the pool makes it difficult to breathe when congested or that chlorinated water is irritating. Be your own best judge if jumping into water is best for you.


A slow, less intense bike ride can be another form of physical activity causing you to breathe in more deeply while getting in some fresh air. Avoid intense biking involving going up and down steep inclines or rugged terrain. Also, bear in mind biking might dry out nasal passages and increase symptoms like a sore throat and runny nose.