Is It OK to Exercise With a Cough?

The Hyfe Mind


July 16, 2020
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

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Can you exercise with a cough? Let’s dig in.

If there is a just tickle in your throat, you can continue your workout. However, frequent or productive coughing can indicate a respiratory infection. Hence, it would help if you rested until you get better.

While exercising, lungs expand, and you breathe deeply, thus increasing oxygen intake. But, your lungs can’t do this if you have a wet or productive cough. 

As a result, exercise can cause: 

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • fluid build-up in your lungs

Always listen to your body and lower the intensity if you feel uncomfortable. Consult your doctor before exercising, especially if your cough persists for more than two weeks. Your doctor will advise and provide treatments accordingly.

How Should I Exercise With a Cough and Breathe Better?

If it's difficult to breathe while exercising or in general, it might be a good idea to stay home or opt for low-impact exercises such as taking a walk. Keep in mind that coughing may spread illness. You may risk others at the gym if you exercise with a cough.

Low-Impact Exercises

Choose low-impact regular exercises to continue the workout. That way, you can stay active without putting too much stress. 

Perform breathing exercises for dry cough such as

  • Breathe using your belly
  • Pursed-lip breathing techniques 
  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Alternate nostril breathing
  • Humming bee breath
  • Sitali breath
  • Resonant or coherent breathing
  • Equal Time for Breathing in and Breathing Out
  • Modified Lion’s Breath
  • Deep Breathing

They are specifically beneficial for people with lung conditions.

Use the elliptical or stationary bike at the gym instead of intense cardio. You can also go for a walking alternative to running.

Some low impact full-body exercises include: 

  • Jumping rope swimming walking 
  • Jogging, 
  • Bicycling
  • Skating
  • Training with resistance bands
  • Stretchings

In general, if you are an athlete and your symptoms get severe, then light exercise is good. 

Above the neck symptoms include:

  • A mild sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Earache
  • Mild cold
  • Headache

These are just a few exercises you can perform. Moreover, always use your best judgment when you cough with physical activity. If your cough or asthma gives you chest pain, you may need time to recover. 

You can discover more on cough managing exercises on our blog.

Is Working Out While Sick Good or Bad?

In some cases, exercise promotes recovery. For example, a light workout may reduce congestion, sinus pressure, and clear airways.

Is running with a cough OK? It would be best if you walked instead of running.

Stick to low-intensity exercise and hydration well. Allow your body to heal before hitting the gym when symptoms worsen.

On the contrary, exercise can sometimes harm you when you are ill. It might be dangerous to work out. Take time off from training when you feel:

  • Fever
  • Wet or productive cough
  • Flu symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Asthma and other underlying conditions may worsen while exercising when sick. Therefore, do shorter workout sessions.

Why Do I Cough After Exercise?

Imagine completing a truly fulfilling exercise, and you start coughing. Why did the workout make you cough?

Luckily, the science of cough has some wisdom to impart.

Firstly, there might be air pollution, whether outside or at the gym. As you exercise, you breathe in tiny particles that irritate the lungs. Besides, producing mucus as protection. 

Secondly, we tend to breathe through our mouths when we exercise. Consequently, we breathe unfiltered air. Nose filters humidify and warm the air before reaching your lungs. Hence, you may find your post-workout cough getting severe.

Thirdly, coughing during or after a workout session can be a reason for exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). It occurs when the airways in your lungs temporarily narrow in response to any physical activity increase your heart rate.

EIB may affect as much as 15% of the population. Whether your cough is severe or annoying, schedule an appointment with your doctor. 

EIB symptoms are generally non-specific, such as;

  • Wheezing
  • Chest congestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Reduced endurance
  • Abdominal discomfort

While most cases are mild, some may require a visit to the emergency room. Your doctor can help you manage EIB by advising you to limit your workout sessions in some way or prescribe a treatment. 

Acid reflux could be another reason for coughing after exercise. This “reflux” transpires when the acids of your stomach belly up to your throat induce cough.

How do I Manage Coughing after Exercise?

Wear protective clothing over your mouth and nose when going for a run in cold air. Avoid some exercises such as running in cold weather; instead, run indoors.

Carry your yoga mat to the gym for your and others’ safety. Wipe down the equipment with antibacterial wipes before and after use. 

Exercise with caution and stay hydrated. But, most importantly, don’t push yourself too hard. 

Also, be considerate of others and preferably stay home if you have a contagious illness, like the flu or Covid 19. You can always go for a walk outside if you want to be active.

To conclude, exercise is a great way to strengthen your immune system. However, while it’s usually safe to exercise with a mild cold, a cough may be a sign to take it easy. Rather play it safe, skip the gym for a few days, and give your body time to heal. 

Be mindful of protecting yourself from the dangers of exercising with a cough. Finally, if you’re determined to stick with your exercise regime, speak to your doctor and get the all-clear first.

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