Working Out With a Cold

Photo credit: Cornelius CC-BY-SA-3.0

Winter months bring colds. As much as we all despise the incurable pest and as much as we may try to avoid its grasp, it’s inevitable that at one point or another, we will fall victim to the sneezing, coughing, sore throat and sinus torture brought on by the virus. For any fitness fanatic, this can mean an extra dose of torture. To someone who has become accustomed to regular exercise, the thought of being semi-sedentary for a week or two can be hard to swallow. And guess what. You don’t have to. Mild to moderate exercise can have a positive effect on the immune system, and if you keep your blood flowing, you can help your body keep strong and fight off the virus.

Exercising while sick relies heavily on one thing: listening to your body. As long as nothing below the neck is bothering you (coughing, body aches, nausea) it’s really up to you to determine what intensity is appropriate for you. In addition, keep in mind that if you are on any sort of medication, this may affect your ability to work out as well. Taking a nighttime cold medicine might result in a slight medicine hangover the next day and therefore, even less energy than you might have with a cold all on its own. Also take into consideration that decongestants raise your heart rate, as does exercise. This combination might not make for the most ideal workout, as your breathing could become short and oxygenation to the blood could become difficult. This could have an adverse effect on your recovery time, so make sure to consult with a doctor if you plan on taking these while working out.

If you are up to it, you have a lot of great and safe options for working out while sick. If nothing else, talking a walk outdoors is a great way to gently get your blood pumping and oxygen circulating. Even a 10-minute walk can help boost your immune system during the most debilitating of colds.  If you’re up to a slow jog or even a run, as long as you listen to your body, you are good to go. Keep in mind that you may not be able to run as fast or as long as you are used to, and this is completely okay.

Yoga is another good choice when sick, especially if more intense cardio-based exercise aggravates a cough. Whether it be a class or poses on your own, there are a variety of poses that are gentle and beneficial to an under-the-weather feeling.  Studies have even suggested that vibrations from humming (chanting Om) can help ease sinus pressure and pain. Poses like Uttanasana (standing forward bend), Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) and Supta Buddha Konasana (reclining bound angle pose) are all beneficial for restoration. Balasana (child’s pose) and Upavustha Konasana (wide-angle seated forward bend) are beneficial to congestion and respiratory sensitivity and discomfort.

Higher intensity workouts can also remain an option when you have a head cold, keeping in mind that you may have to slightly scale back while your body is in a more delicate state. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or any sort of pain, it’s important that you ease up and do not push yourself to become even more ill. Also, never feel bad if you need to give your body a rest. Resting helps just as much with recovery as exercise and can help you come back to your workouts feeling refreshed and re-energized.

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