Exercise and the Common Cold

Reproduced from the American College of Sports Medicine, Current Comment

A cold is an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract caused by a viral infection. The common cold is probably the most frequently occurring illness in humans worldwide. More than 200 different viruses cause colds, and rhinoviruses and coronaviruses are the culprits 25-60 percent of the time. Rhinovirus infections often occur during the fall and spring seasons, while the coronavirus is more common during the winter.

Should you exercise or rest when you have a cold?

Most clinical authorities in the area of immunology recommend:

  1. If one has common cold symptoms (i.e. runny nose and sore throat without fever, general body aches and pains), intensive exercise training may be safely resumed a few days after the resolution of symptoms.
  2. Mild-to-moderate exercise (i.e. walking) when sick with the common cold does not appear to be harmful. In two studies using nasal sprays of a rhinovirus leading to common cold symptoms, subjects were able to engage in exercise during the course of the illness without any negative effects on severity of symptoms or performance capability.
  3. With a symptom complex of fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, and swollen lymph glands, 2-4 weeks should probably be allowed before resumption of intensive training.
  4. In general, if the symptoms are from the neck up, moderate exercise is probably acceptable and, some researchers would even argue, beneficial, while bedrest and a gradual progression to normal training are recommended when the illness is systemic. If in doubt as to the type of infectious illness, individuals should consult a physician.

vitalityNaomi L. Sklar, MD
Vitality Sports Medicine, PO BOX 1601 Wilson, WY 83014
Teton Valley Hospital, 120 East Howard Ave, Driggs, ID 83422