Colds and Exercise

It’s a question that plagues people who exercise regularly, or at least try to, at this time of year. Should you work out when you have a cold? Surprisingly enough, this question stumps many exercise physiologists and infectious disease specialists.

Many fitness buffs make up their own rules, and keep exercising if they possibly can.

It turns out that, that’s the conclusion of two little-known studies that were published a decade ago in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Investigators tested subjects, assessing their lung functions and exercise capacity. Then they injected a cold virus into the noses of volunteers who all caught head colds. Two days later, when their cold symptoms were at their worst, the subjects exercised by running on treadmills at moderate and intense levels. The researchers reported that having a cold had no effect on either lung function or exercise capacity.

They also found there was no difference in the severity of symptoms, or time it took to recover from the colds.

The researchers concluded it was fine to encourage people to exercise with symptoms like runny noses and sneezing. However, they’re more cautious about other types of colds that produce fevers or symptoms like chest congestion.

The thing is: staying the course is the biggest issue for people who are trying to build that exercise habit, so taking time off because of a cold can often be the start of falling away from the program entirely.

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