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The Best and Worst Exercises for a Cold

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Cold and flu season is almost upon us, and while there are preventive measures we can take to avoid getting sick, sometimes we just get unlucky. If you find yourself sick with a cold, you may wonder how easy you're supposed to take it. Should you just rest on the couch or is it OK to work out when you're all stuffy?

Most health care providers agree that if your symptoms are limited to the area above your neck, it's generally fine to break a sweat, if you feel up to it. But if your body feels achy or you have a fever or are really congested, it might be better to get some rest.

Once you feel good enough to head outside or to the gym, here are the best and worst exercises to do with a cold.

Best: Walking

Worst: Endurance running

Taking a 20- or 30-minute walk several times a week is a great way to stay in shape. It can even ease the symptoms of your cold by allowing you to open up your breathing passages as you inhale. On the other hand, avoid long-distance endurance running when you have a cold, because studies have shown that your immune system function can be compromised for up to a day afterward.

Best: Yoga

Worst: Weight lifting

Yoga can help you reduce your stress levels, which are usually elevated when you're fighting a cold. The gentle stretching involved in the poses can also help relieve aches and pains. Weight lifting, however, isn't the best idea, because your strength and focus will likely be diminished, increasing your risk of injury. Lifting weights can also put extra strain on your muscles, which can make sinus pressure and headaches worse.

Best: Dancing

Worst: Team sports

Whether you take a dance class like Zumba or just jam to your favorite playlist at home, dancing is a good way to get your heart pumping and reduce stress without putting much strain on your body. And while you may feel obligated to participate in team sports like soccer or softball, you're better off sitting on the bench while you're sick. Having physical contact with others can increase the risk of spreading the cold. Your teammates might miss you out there, but they'll be glad you're not passing your illness on to them!

As long as you feel comfortable working out and you're not exposing others to your cold, you should be fine doing moderate exercise. If you have questions about a specific routine or think something may be out of the ordinary with your symptoms, don't hesitate to contact your health care provider.