Exercise for coughs


Those who do sport regularly get used to the recurring stress over time and do not want to do without it under any circumstances. This will is even more pronounced in competitive athletes.

However, especially in the transitional seasons, such as spring and autumn, it can happen that athletes catch a cough while doing or doing sports. For many, the question now arises as to what to do next. Should a break be taken, or can you do the usual amount of exercise with a cold?

You might also be interested in this topic: Exercise for a cold

Can you do sports with a cough?

If you have caught a cough, the question arises for many athletes whether the cough should be cured first or whether you can simply continue with the sport.

Coughing is a human defense mechanism that is supposed to excrete mucus, foreign bodies or dust. Especially the airways are cleaned and freed by the cough. However, coughing has another function. It is a symptom of various illnesses such as a cold, whooping cough, bronchitis, or asthma.

Since an athlete does not always notice whether the cough is just a protective mechanism or a symptom of an illness, this should always be clarified with a doctor. The doctor will identify the reason for the cough and at the same time give advice on whether or not to continue exercising:

  • If the cough is just a protective mechanism of the body, then the sport can be continued. However, it is advisable to reduce the intensity a little for the next one to three sports units in order to be on the safe side and not to overload the body.
  • However, if the cough is a symptom of an illness, the doctor's advice should definitely be followed. Depending on the underlying disease, the break should be shorter or longer.

More information can be found here: Cough - a complex of symptoms of various causes)

  • Especially when it comes to endurance sports, you should be careful not to put too much pressure on your body. Alternative sports with little or no endurance are recommended as a temporary solution during this time. Stretching, walking, fascia training, stability exercises or yoga do not stress the circulation as much and there is no need to take a complete break from sports.

Also read here: Exercise after a cold - when is it safe?

What are the risks of exercising with a cough?

Anyone who ignores all warnings from their own body, the doctor or from friends and acquaintances and does the usual exercise despite an illness with a cough is exposing themselves to a certain risk.

The stress of doing sports can make the cough chronic and thus remain acute for much longer. A chronic cough is also much more difficult to cure than a "normal" cough. Depending on how strong the cough is, continuing exercise can put your health at risk.

The illness, such as a cold or bronchitis, can worsen because the body does not have enough energy to fight it due to the high loads. The healing process takes longer and the cough can be delayed.

Particularly in combination with a cold, the mixture of coughing and exercising can, in rare individual cases, lead to heart muscle inflammation. Heart muscle inflammation, if detected too late, can in exceptional cases lead to death. However, an athlete would have to ignore all of the body's warning signals to get to this point.

Read more about the topic here: Myocarditis from exercise and Symptoms of myocarditis

Exercise for coughs, runny nose and colds

If athletes develop a cough, it should first be clarified what the cause of the cough is:

  • If the body reacts to protection, you can continue with normal sport.
  • However, if the cough is a sign of an illness, then a doctor should determine the exact illness and make a recommendation as to whether and when you can start exercising again.

The doctor can also point out alternative sports that only put very little stress on the circulation and that can also be carried out with a cough. Athletes should always think about their health first before simply continuing with the sport.

Especially with competitive athletes, the pressure is often so high that a break is not possible because the athlete would accept too much training deficit. The problem here is that the body may continue to be damaged without the athlete noticing, which can lead to a cold, for example. A cold puts a great strain on the cardiovascular system and the immune system is also busy banishing bacteria and other germs from the body.

In addition to aching limbs, headaches and inflamed sinuses are not uncommon. With these physical strains, strenuous exercise should definitely be avoided.

High physical stress such as jogging, strength training or team sports put additional stress on the organism and the healing process is automatically slowed down, as the body does not have enough resources to cope with both stresses. Regeneration after exercise is just as less than optimal as the healing process of the common cold.

Due to the weakened immune system, infections and diseases (inflammation of the heart muscle) can creep in. A quick and complete recovery from a cough, runny nose and / or cold can only be guaranteed with a sufficient break. If you have any questions or are unsure, you should always consult your family doctor.

Exercise for cough with sputum

Cough with sputum can be for two reasons. On the one hand, it can be a protective reaction of the body that occurs when there is dust or mucus in the lungs or airways. On the other hand, there may be a serious illness behind it, which should definitely be clarified by a doctor.

Sometimes the sputum indicates lung involvement in the form of pneumonia or bronchitis. Clear sputum usually occurs with viral infections, but if the color of the sputum is yellowish or greenish-yellow, this suggests an infection by bacteria. Both infections in the upper respiratory tract can spread, and there is a fear of inflammation of the heart or the middle layer of the skin (mediastinum).

Depending on the reason behind the cough with sputum, the sporting activity should be interrupted or alternative sports should be carried out.

Endurance sports in particular put a lot of strain on the body, so other sports should be avoided in the event of coughing with sputum. All sports that are performed in a low heart rate range are suitable for this. Sports that are carried out in high pulse ranges put a lot of strain on the body and are therefore not suitable. Walking, yoga, fascia training, calm cycling are good examples of sports that can be practiced after consulting a doctor.

Inappropriate behavior during a cold or an infection can promote this and also make a previously unnoticed spread of infection to the heart symptomatic and therefore dangerous.

Exercise for coughs and sore throats

If a cough and sore throat occur as part of a cold, this indicates an infection of the upper respiratory tract. This is not necessarily a reason to forego sport, but it depends on where the sore throat comes from. Most of the time, sore throats are caused by an inflamed mucous membrane in the throat, which in turn is caused by viruses.

An infection with a certain bacterial strain, the streptococcus, which can classically lead to white, speck-like coatings on the tonsils, is also feared. This group of bacteria can lead to heart valve damage if germs are spread and, in the context of rheumatic fever, to inflammation of the heart, which is why antibiotic treatment should usually be given immediately if bacterial tonsillitis is suspected.

If you have a slight sore throat, you should listen to your own body and observe the external framework conditions, for example the duration of the sporting activity or the intensity.

Anyone who ignores a sore throat and does not have a doctor clarify should be aware of the risk of transporting the viruses into the bloodstream and thereby affecting the heart and kidneys. Avoiding exercise if you have a cough or sore throat is therefore advisable as a precautionary measure.

Please also read our topic on this Exercise for a sore throat

Risk of myocarditis

If you do sport while you have a cold, which is sometimes characterized by a cough, this not only means more effort for the body, which is already running at full speed to fight the pathogens, but also a potential increased health risk.

Infections of the upper respiratory tract are usually triggered by viruses or bacteria, and many potential intruders can also infect the heart as part of the spread of germs. Carry-over occurs when either no adequate therapy is initiated in good time or when the body is not given the necessary rest that it needs to efficiently fight the infection.

Find out more at: What is a procrastinated cold?

Coughing during exercise due to overexertion

Coughing during exercise can occur in the form of a dry cough, although it can be in the context of overexertion, but also independently of it. The cause is often the cold and dry air, which can lead to a dry cough, especially when exercising outdoors.

Normally the air in the nose is moistened and warmed up before it gets into the lung system. During sport and especially when overexertion, however, there is excessive breathing through the mouth so that this “preparation” is missing. Overexertion during sport can also trigger what is known as stress asthma, which is associated with a cough or dry cough and, above all, shortness of breath.

Please also read: asthma

Cough from allergy while exercising

Regardless of whether the sport is done outside or inside, there can be potential allergens everywhere, which can lead to allergic symptoms even during physical activity.

Outside, for example, it is mainly the pollen that can lead to allergic reactions such as tears and itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and coughing, and possibly even shortness of breath.

The physical strain that is added during exercise can worsen these symptoms, which can even lead to interruption or discontinuation of exercise.