The positive effects of regular exercise on the body are common knowledge. Engaging in physical activities regularly is not only considered a great addition to your weight loss program but is also deemed an excellent way to boost your overall health.

In fact, experts reveal that working out can lower your risk of experiencing chronic medical conditions, bolster your immune defenses, and even help maintain your emotional and mental wellbeing.

While there is no doubt about the crucial role of exercise in maintaining your health, many people are still asking: Should you excerise with a cough?

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as a “yes” or “no.” There are instances when you should move and times when you shouldn’t.

To make sure you don’t make your condition worse by making the wrong decision about working out, here are the two most crucial rules you must follow about exercising when you have a cough:


Rule #1: Know Your Symptoms


Speeding up your recovery is always the primary goal when you’re sick, but it can be difficult to discern when it’s okay to go about your usual gym routine or when you should stay at home to rest.

Again, exercising is a healthy habit, but you should know that there are certain situations when you shouldn’t force yourself to power through a workout. Alternatively, there are also instances when you can still continue exercising even when you don’t feel 100 percent fit.


■Above-the-neck symptoms

The key is to determine which part of the body symptoms of an illness appear.

Also called the “above the neck” rule, one theory experts use to determine when it’s okay to exercise entails looking at the parts of the body that are affected by the symptoms. Among the symptoms that mean you can still do physical activities while sick are:


1: Mild Cold

Mild Cold
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When you experience mild cold symptoms like headaches, mild cough, a stuffy nose, and sneezing, it is okay to continue exercising. However, you must get a feel of your energy level first before proceeding with your routine as fatigue may be a sign that you should take it slow in the meantime.

Of course, you can always tone down the intensity of your workout or reduce its duration to make sure you don’t aggravate your condition.

Plus, it would be best to exercise at home or outdoors (i.e., a walk in the park) rather than hitting the gym as you might spread the virus to other people. The fresh air would also be beneficial for your quick recovery.


2: Ear Ache

Ear Ache
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For children, pain in the ears is a common sign of infection. However, adults who have this symptom may be experiencing “referred pain,” or pain from another area that is transferred to the ear. Usually, the referred pain in the ears is due to a throat discomfort.

If you experience a dull, sharp, or burning sensation in one or both of your ears, you can still workout safely so long as your sense of balance isn’t compromised.


■Below-the-neck symptoms

Aside from knowing the signs that it’s okay to exercise while sick, you must also know the red flags. Experts discourage exercising when you experience symptoms that occur below the neck, such as:


1: Fever

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Fevers are commonly triggered by a viral or bacterial infection and may come with unpleasant symptoms like dehydration, muscle ache, loss of appetite, and general weakness.

Following the “above the neck” rule, you must take a break from working out when your temperature exceeds the normal body temperature of 98.6°F or 37°C. This is because exercising with a fever can put you at a higher risk of dehydration.

Also, a fever tends to decrease your muscle strength and can impair your coordination and precision, which may lead to injury.


2: Flu


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Working out while showing signs of influenza, more commonly referred to as the “flu,” can prolong the illness. Flu symptoms may include body aches, fatigue, fever, chills, headache, sore throat, cough, and congestion.


While symptoms may vary from person-to-person, feverish people are at a higher risk of dehydration. Plus, the fatigue and body aches might make it difficult to do intense workouts like jogging, so it is best to take a break from exercising until you feel better.


3: Productive cough

Productive Cough
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A productive cough produces sputum or phlegm. In some cases, this is considered a sign of infection or other types of medical conditions. Often, these illnesses require rest and a check-up.

While occasional coughing is a normal response to irritants or germs in the airways, a persistent cough may be a sign of a respiratory infection such as flu, colds, or pneumonia. If your cough makes it difficult for you to take deep breaths, you should defer aerobic exercises to avoid shortness of breath or fatigue.

In this case, it may be best to skip working out and give your body a chance to recover.


Rule #2: Know What Activities You Can and Cannot Do


For the sake of clarity, you must know that there is a big difference between a workout and simply engaging in physical activities.

For one, workouts are structured and may cause you to experience heavy breathing, sweating, and awaken your body’s stress response. When you’re in tiptop shape, your body will have no problem adapting to stress. However, if you’re sick, stress may be more than what your body can handle.

Still, there’s no reason for you to just snuggle up on the couch when you feel the sniffles coming on. Unless you’re severely out of shape, non-strenuous movement shouldn’t hurt you. In fact, they might even help.


Among the non-strenuous movements you can do with a cough are:

  • Outdoor strolls
  • Low-intensity bike riding
  • Gardening
  • Tai Chi


Since these aren’t very intense, these activities won’t lead to immune-compromising stress on your body. They can even help you feel better and speed up your recovery, especially activities that are done outdoors. Just remember to stick to low-intensity cardio exercises that won’t make you catch your breath when you have cough or colds.

However, certain activities are not okay to do when you’re sick. Essentially, you must avoid doing strenuous activities like heavy lifting or intense running.

Also, working out indoors is not recommended since germs may spread while you’re at the gym. If you do head to these establishments, be sure to take extra precautions by maintaining proper hygiene and washing your hands often.


Listen to Your Body

Aside from taking home remedies to ease cough, knowing when to continue and when to stop exercising is crucial for your recovery. Make sure you don’t aggravate your cough, or any other illness you have by knowing what the different signs mean, and always listen to your body.

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