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Can You Work Out With a Cold?

Your nose is running, your head aches, and your throat feels like it's been rubbed with sandpaper. So should you hit the gym—or your snooze button? The answer depends on your symptoms, your workout, and the steps you'll take to keep from sharing your infection with your workout buddy.

Most experts agree a moderate workout can't hurt, and may even help, a common cold. Use the above-the-neck rule as a guide. If your symptoms are all in your head, such as sniffles and sneezing, go ahead and take a walk or do another easy routine.

If you have any of the following signs, lay off of physical activity until you feel better:

  • Fever

  • Body aches and pains

  • Swollen glands

  • Extreme fatigue

Don't jump back into your old routine once you've kicked your illness. Take two to four weeks of rest and then gradually work back up to your previous level.

Regular Exercise Prevents Colds

Once you're well again, keep exercising to prevent your next bout with what's going around. Studies show that about 45 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking, biking, or swimming on most days of the week reduces the number of colds you'll catch by 25 to 50 percent.

However, stressful workouts may briefly suppress the immune system. That's why, for example, marathon runners and other athletes appear prone to colds and flu during training.

Whether you're an elite athlete or a recreational exerciser, you also can prevent the common cold by:

  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Keeping stress under control

  • Reducing contact with people who are sick

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water

Keeping Germs from Spreading

Suffering through spin class with the sniffles? Don't give the entire group your virus. Prevent passing along infections at the gym by:

  • Washing your hands regularly

  • Showering after you sweat

  • Cleaning shared equipment after use with a virus-killing disinfectant

  • Covering your nose or mouth when you sneeze or cough.

QUICK TIP

Getting a flu shot? Consider taking a jog first. Moderate exercise immediately before vaccination may increase your body's immune response.