Why exercise can help us stay healthy & fight a cold

It’s no secret that there are numerous benefits to staying active. Exercise is a mood-booster, a stress-killer, and it helps us maintain a healthy weight.

Regular exercise also helps prevent some forms of cancer, cardiovascular issues and type 2 diabetes, so it’s a really great way to invest in our long-term health.

But did you know that working out regularly can help boost your immune system too? That means that your regular fitness routine could be the new and improved “apple a day.”

“In one study in the American Journal of Medicine, women who walked for a half-hour every day for 1 year had half the number of colds as those who didn’t exercise.” (Source: WebMD)

Some fitness each day keeps the doctor away

Many health experts believe that staying active is a great way to boost your immune system, particularly because people who exercise regularly tend to get fewer colds. And even when they do get a cold, they’re more likely to bounce back sooner. Why? Because white blood cells fight infection. And regular activity, like walking, can produce more of these infection-fighting cells. Win-win!

But it gets better: You don’t have to be a super athlete in order for these immune-boosting benefits to take effect. In fact, like most things in life, moderation is key. Studies have shown that people who engage in moderate physical activity tend to reap the highest (health) rewards.

This means that simple pleasures, like taking a 20- to 30-minute walk each day, going for a leisurely bike ride a few times a week, or playing a sport you love regularly, are all examples of moderate physical activity that can help keep you healthy.  

Working out while under the weather: yay or nay?

So what if you’re already sick? Is it a good idea to stick to your regular routine? The short answer is: It depends.

In most cases, if you’re sticking to those mild-to-moderate activities mentioned above, staying active is encouraged. It can help temporarily ease symptoms, like sore throat, sinus pressure, or nasal congestion. And it never hurts to move our bodies. Unless, that is…

  • You have asthma. Considering both exercise and certain cold medicines increase your heart rate (which, combined, can result in shortness of breath and difficulty breathing), you may want to avoid getting active in order not to exacerbate your asthma. In this case, we recommend speaking with your doctor before working out.
  • You have a fever. When you have a fever, your body temperature is already higher than normal, so you should avoid doing things like exercise that will make it spike even higher. Not to mention working out while feverish can worsen existing symptoms, like weakness, dehydration and muscles aches.
  • You’re experiencing symptoms “below the neck.” This includes elevated heart rate and fever (see above), as well as other symptoms, like nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and weakness. It probably goes without saying that none of these symptoms are conducive to working out. If you’re feeling this bad, stay in bed.

If you aren’t sure if you should be working out but really, really want to simply test it out for 15-20 minutes. If you start to feel worse, listen to your body and rest.

Here are some great ideas for mild-to-moderate activities to try when you’re sick, as well as what to avoid until you’re feeling well again:

(Source: Precision Nutrition)

To be at the gym… or not to be?

If you’ve got the sniffles and you’re still pumped to work out, it should be just fine as long as you follow the guidelines above. But keep in mind that your pals at the gym won’t want you around if you’re sneezing and coughing (a.k.a. spreading germs) nearby.

Remember that a cold can be contagious for just over two weeks, so try to avoid heading to the gym during this time. Stick to an outdoor activity until you’re sure you’re not going to pass it on.

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