Can I Run with a Cold?

running with a coldRunning while you are sick might be a bad idea.  It is difficult to know if you should go for your daily jog when you come down with a cold. One thing is for sure, you should not do a long run or a workout.  If you don’t know what a long run or a workout is then check out the definition of terms blog post.

If you come down with a cold and wonder if you should continue with your daily exercise or jog the first thing to do is to consult your doctor.  Recent research seems to say that the answer is maybe, according to the article “Does Exercise Boost Immunity?” in the New York Times.

According to Murphy et al “Exercise stress increases susceptibility to influenza infection” you should not consider exercising to fatigue if you are sick.  But I really think that everyone should know that, but on second thought there are some of you that might consider doing your Sunday Long Run even though you have been sick all week because that is what you do on Sunday, a Long Run.  There have been many Long Runs that have been squeezed in against better judgment that have resulted in more days of cross training on the bike or in the pool.

Another study (this is by no means an exhaustive list and is mostly an elaboration on the blog above) said that light to moderate exercise increases the immunity response by increasing the activity of the TH2 cells.  These TH2 cells decrease inflammation.  Intense exercise increases the inflammation response by activating TH1 cells.  This is why moderate to light exercise helps recovery.  Easy runs and runs under 1hr at moderate intensities need to be a part of regular training to increase TH2 cells and balance Th1 cells.

Here is my suggestion for exercise if you are felling a little under the weather.  First of all you want to see your doctor to make sure you are clear to exercise.  If you are clear then start with moderate to light exercise until you feel better.  Also, if you are feeling under the weather and you have one more workout before the big race then skip the workout, trust your fitness and jog easy to moderate.  One more workout could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Here are some basic guidelines of intense, moderate and light exercise.

How to gauge your intensity level:

  • Light exercise: 20-55mins @65% of HR max or under
-light jogging or walking for most people.
  • Moderate: 20-55mins @70% to 79% of HR max
-jogging or walking where you can carry say a few sentences but not a conversation.
  • Intense: 20mins-2hrs @80% of HR max or over
-this is fast running or intense walking, you may only be able to say a few words (Definately avoid this type of exercise if you are sick).

I broke all of the above rules while sick by doing a fast 12 mile run on a day when it was 40 degrees and raining in Georgia in January.  Payed for that one for several days after.  I really don’t know if I would have been better off resting that day.  Probably so…


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  • By Anonymous, August 30, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

    Running with a cold is 100% fine if you do not have any fever symptoms. Great post

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