A cough -- especially when accompanied by other cold symptoms such as sneezing, muscle aches, a sore throat or a runny nose -- can often be used as an excuse not to work out. However, depending on the severity of your cough, exercising may help you to feel better and take your mind off your cough or feeling sick. You need to take a number of factors into consideration when deciding how and if you should work out with a cough.
Exercise your own judgment. According to QuantumHealth.com, exercising with a mild cough will not hurt you. Other symptoms that occur from the neck up -- runny nose, sneezing and sniffles -- are also not reasons to avoid working out. If you have a rough and persistent cough with chest pain, working out can worsen your cough and increase pain in your chest.
Visit with your doctor. If the symptoms of your cough persist for more than two weeks, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. Your primary care doctor can help rule out more serious conditions and provide you with information on when it is safe to participate in exercise again.
Use antibacterial wipes and hand gels if working out at the gym. Wipe equipment down before and after you use it for the safety of yourself and others. Use antibacterial hand gel as you leave the gym to help kill other germs.
Participate in low-impact exercise. Low-impact exercise -- according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine -- can help you reap the benefits of exercise -- including weight maintenance, stress control and disease prevention -- without being too tough on your body. Try using an elliptical machine, rowing machine or stationary bike. Take a walk. NASM recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week.
Take a yoga or Pilates class. Focus on the mind-body connection that yoga and Pilates have to offer. Yoga and Pilates can help increase your strength and flexibility and allow you to relax. Relaxing can be beneficial with a cough or illness.
Keep your body hydrated by carrying a bottle of water with you as you exercise.
If at any point during exercise your cough becomes worse, discontinue exercise and relax.