Is it OK to exercise with a cold?

When we hit the fall season and start to experience colder temperatures and more time indoors, many of us can be plagued with the common cold. Some of us might try to keep up with exercise, and others feel the need to take a break. 

Truthfully there is no right or wrong, but what’s most important is to listen to your body. So here are a few tips to exercising with a cold, or when it may be a good time to skip a workout.

When it’s okay to exercise

Tea and Medicine

If it’s the common cold, and there have been no signs of a fever or symptoms below the neck, mild to moderate exercise is fine to participate in if you’re feeling up to it.


•Some people experience that a little bit of exercise may help to clear nasal passages providing temporary relief.

•It’s thought that those who exercise regularly are less likely to get sick overall.

Things to change:

•While you may still want to exercise, consider a shorter time frame, decrease in intensity, or varying form of exercise.

•Be sure to sanitize equipment both before and after use to help prevent the spread to others.

When to avoid exercise

When you have bodily aches and pains, a fever, chest congestion, coughing/wheezing, a chronic health concern, and/or an upset stomach.

•Take a few days break and when returning, make sure to gradually get back into exercise. Don’t start off at or above in intensity or duration from the last time you exercised.

•Listen to your body, and if it’s more than the common cold, your body is under stress trying to heal, and exercise is an unnecessary source of extra stress at the moment.

•If taking prescribed or over the counter medicine, check to see if an increased heart rate may be a side effect. Exercise also increases heart rate; this can cause more than normal shortness of breath and exertion.

It should be noted that exercising with a cold shouldn’t make symptoms or illnesses worse, but it may not shorten them either. So if you’re exercising to get over the cold faster, that isn’t strongly supported. Sometimes we just have to let the cold run its course.

Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more, go to the adult fitness program website,