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Cold / Flu - Workout or Not?

stew smith

This week a National Guard soldier who is preparing for his PFT asked a common question that many people get wrong. “Since I have a cold (head stuffed, sore throat, sinus pain) is it OK to PT or run?”

First of all, anytime you go into a public facility consider it germ infested during the flu season -- especially a gym. Catching colds from your kids who attend school, from living in barracks, or from cafeterias is all too common during the flu season. By simply washing your hands and using hand cleaner throughout your day, you can significantly decrease your chances of even catching a cold or flu.

But back to the question. The rule is: If your chest is congested, you have a fever, chills, dehydrated, or any other cold ailment from the neck down, DO NOT WORKOUT. Chest congestion and any type of exercise do not mix well. Aerobic or anaerobic activity can overwork your heart and can cause your chest cold to develop into a bronchitis or pneumonia. Lifting weights can naturally increase blood pressure. Combined with over working your heart, you can really cause damage if not careful when exercising while ill. Plus -- you don't want to bring your germs to the gym either.

However, if you have a head cold with minor sinus pain, sniffles, sneezing, etc., it is fine to workout as long as you have a normal energy level and are not feeling sluggish and no fever. Be careful not to overdo your activity with high-intensity workouts. You need to drop your intensity level a bit because your body is using energy to fight whatever is that's making you feel ill. Keep hydrated by drinking 3-4 quarts of water a day and eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. This will enable your body to fight off the “bug” causing your symptoms.

There is no evidence that you can “run off” or “sweat out” a cold. Studies have proven that you cannot decrease the duration of the cold or flu symptoms by exercising. In fact, if you workout too hard, you can actually get more sick.

For more ideas on types of workouts you can add to your program check out my Stew Article Archive. There are plenty of workouts ideas for you to use at your leisure. For more in-depth training programs, see the Fitness eBook Store at

Feel free to email the author of the books and articles at if you have any questions.

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