Should You Work Out With A Cold?

In General, Primal Lifestyle by Mikki Reilly4 Comments

With the flu season upon us, one question I’m often asked is: should you continue to work out when you come down with a cold?

A recent article in the New York Times addressed this topic and pointed to a couple of studies that were published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise about a decade ago.

According to the article, to see if having a cold affects your ability to exercise, “researchers recruited 24 men and 21 women ages 18 to 29 and of varying levels of fitness who agreed to be deliberately infected with a rhinovirus, which is responsible for about a third of all colds. Another group of 10 young men and women served as controls; they were not infected.”

“…the investigators tested all of the subjects, assessing their lung functions and exercise capacity. Then a cold virus was dropped into the noses of 45 of the subjects, and all caught head colds. Two days later, when their cold symptoms were at their worst, the subjects exercised by running on treadmills at moderate and intense levels. The researchers reported that having a cold had no effect on either lung function or exercise capacity.”

To see if exercising when you have a cold affects your symptoms and recovery time, the same researchers “infected volunteers with a rhinovirus. This time, the subjects were 34 young men and women who were randomly assigned to a group that would exercise with their colds and 16 others who were assigned to rest.

The group that exercised ran on treadmills for 40 minutes every other day at moderate levels of 70 percent of their maximum heart rates.

Every 12 hours, all the subjects in the study completed questionnaires about their symptoms and physical activity. The researchers collected the subjects’ used facial tissues, weighing them to assess their cold symptoms.

The investigators found no difference in symptoms between the group that exercised and the one that rested. And there was no difference in the time it took to recover from the colds.”

So there’s the evidence — no need to stop training when you come down with a cold.


  1. And I usually feel better after I train. So I guess it just depends on the individual.

  2. Great post – thanks. I’ve had different results at different times along the two dimensions: performance and recovery. Last time: Both were down. Happy exercising!

  3. I am trying to figure out how much you’d have to pay me to let someone “drop rhinovirus in the subject’s nose.” Even in the name of science ….

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