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Should You Exercise While You Have A Cold? - The Lunch Hour Athlete

Training Log For: 10/13/09

Swimming Laps -- 1500 meters - 50 minutes
Recovery -- Yvonne

Posted by Matthew

I can remember texting a coworker last week and complaining about how I felt sick. Come to think about it, I have been complaining about getting sick for the past 2 weeks. But today, today is a different story. I am actually getting sick. I swam 1500 meters at lunch with Mike and immediately felt sick afterward. I've read that sometimes swimmers can have cold-like symptoms after swimming. For the sake of today's post lets just assume that I have a genuine cold. The question I am facing now is "do I train tomorrow".

Being the lover of all things internet, I went right to my favorite search engine and began researching the fate of tomorrow's workout. A few forums and credible news sources later I seem to have reached a conundrum. As always the internet is kind enough to give evidence to support every answer imaginable. So, should I exercise tomorrow despite my cold? The answer is "yes, no, maybe, probably and only if you want to". But you are at the Lunch Hour Athlete blog for a definitive answer, so answer I shall.

First, you have to examine your symptoms. Studies have shown that exercising or working out while sick can actually improve your over all sense of well-being. Without getting all "sciency" on you, your body releases certain hormones during a workout that can boost your energy levels and give you the feeling of being less sick. When I have colds I have less energy so any boost in that department is a plus. However there are some important considerations when you examine your cold symptoms. Are you suffering from mostly head congestion or do you have a cough and phlegm in your lungs and throat? Strenuous exercise combined with congestion and respiratory problems could actually worsen symptoms and recovery time. The cold air combined with a cough and an already existing throat irritation can be exacerbated by running or other exercises that require heavy breathing.

It is my personal opinion that if your symptoms are minor, you should soldier on through your cold and continue your training or exercising. You may want to dial it back a notch for the first few days of the sickness, but research seems to suggest you will not shorten or lengthen the duration of your cold if you continue as normal. Luckily I already have a modified exercise routine because of a leg injury so I think I will continue as normal.

One last thing. Listen to your body. If after exercising you feel noticeably worse, or you begin to feel dizzy or nauseated during a workout, just stop. As with injuries, you don't want to "tough it out" to finish a single workout and end up setting yourself back for a week or more. Whatever you do though, continue to focus on nutrition and diet. Usually people with a cold are still capable of devouring food at the same rate and they were prior to being sick. Be healthy and smart!