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 exercising with a cough.
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Exercising with a Cough
Use your own judgment when exercising with a cough. According to Mayo Clinic, exercising with a common cold is generally OK. Symptoms that occur from the neck up — runny nose, sneezing and sniffles — are not reasons to avoid working out. However, if you have a rough and persistent cough with chest pain, working out can worsen your cough and increase pain in your chest. You should also wait to exercise if you have a fever, severe fatigue or muscle aches.
Exercise with Caution
Participate in low-impact exercise if you decide to workout with a cough. Low-impact exercise 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. Keep in mind that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly to maintain a healthy weight.
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.
Try a New Activity
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, which can be beneficial with a cough or illness.
Read more: Causes of Chest Tightness and Cough
Check with Your Doctor
Before working out with a cough and cold, visit with your doctor — particularly if the symptoms of your cough persist for more than two weeks. 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.
If you find that exercise consistently causes you to cough, you might have a condition called exercise-induced asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, other symptoms of this condition can include shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. However, for many people, a cough might be the only symptom that occurs.
Symptoms of exercise-induced asthma might begin during exercise, but might worsen shortly after stopping. This condition can usually be managed with inhaled medications.
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.