With all the wet and rainy weather we’ve had lately, I thought it would be a suitable time to take a quick look into a topic that exercisers of any level ask themselves; whether exercising with a cold is going to do any harm or even any good?
Firstly, I’m only looking at your common “runny nose, sniffling, sore throat” cold that lasts for about a week and hits most adults 2-3 times/ year. In hindsight, colds seem insignificant, but at the time, especially if you’re finally making those gains in the gym or nailing that pose in yoga class, it could feel like all your work is about to go out the window.
Most people are unsure as to whether to exercise when you begin to feel a cold coming and both arguments (rest or exercise) seem to make sense. Luckily, some researchers have thought the same thing, and a few studies were done looking into the effects of exercising while suffering from the common cold (here, here, and here). Firstly, one of the studies took volunteers, infected them with the common cold (gross..), and took them through a battery of tests looking at lung function and exercise tolerance. Oddly enough, they found no difference between those with and without the common cold. The group then decided to see if exercising while suffering from the cold influenced severity and duration of symptoms. Again, oddly enough they didn’t find any negative effects to exercising, and in some cases the subjects stated that they felt a bit better when exercising (which makes sense to me! – given how cruddy I feel if I’m grounded from my regular exercise regime). Lastly, the group looked to see if this were the same case with those just starting to exercise versus those already regularly exercising. They found the same thing, that continuing to exercising when you have a cold does not have any negative effects on severity or duration of symptoms.
So on the whole, if you’re humming and hawing about whether exercising while you’re sick will make you feel worse or lengthen your duration of symptoms, don’t worry all should be well! And next time you hear your friend using that as an excuse, show them the facts and link them to this blog. Happy trails!