Can I Exercise When I Have a Stuffed Nose?

Regular, moderate-intensity exercise can boost your immune system, reducing your frequency of colds and infections. Exercising with a stuffy nose is not likely to make your condition worse and may even make you feel better by relieving nasal congestion. However, if your stuffy nose is accompanied by certain other symptoms, you may need to take a break.

woman with a stuffy nose Credit: Piotr Marcinski/iStock/Getty Images


Follow through with your exercise plans if cold-like symptoms are above the neck, such as a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing or throat irritation, unless the symptoms are accompanied by a fever. Keep your exercise at a mild to moderate level, holding off on high-intensity exercise until your symptoms have subsided. If you also have chest congestion, nausea, a croupy cough or flu-like symptoms, it's best to abandon your exercise regimen temporarily.


If you're taking a decongestant for your stuffy nose, this can affect your heart rate during exercise. Decongestants, including nose sprays and oral medications, can increase your heart rate and your blood pressure. Monitor your pulse during exercise to make sure you stay within 50 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate; calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age in years from 220. Check with your doctor before taking a decongestant if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, thyroid disease or problems urinating. If you get the go ahead to take the decongestant, ask your doctor if it's okay to exercise while taking the medication.


If you're used to running or generally working out at high intensity, you may want to switch to a milder exercise such as walking, yoga or bicycling at a moderate speed. Keep a pace that raises your heart rate but allows you to carry on a conversation. You can add to the duration of your workout to make up for the change in intensity.


Ultimately, you need to go by how you feel when it comes to exercising with a stuffy nose. If working out worsens your symptoms, take a few days off and give your body time to recover. Boost your immunity in the future by eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, losing weight gradually if you're overweight, getting enough sleep and implementing an exercise program appropriate to your fitness level, suggests the American Council on Exercise.

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