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Bronchial Infection & Exercising

By Linda Tarr Kent ; Updated August 14, 2017

Exercise is vital for maintaining a healthy weight and promoting good health, but pushing too hard can leave you sick and tired. Exercising too much can lead to an upper respiratory tract infection which may develop into bronchitis if you are not careful. Exercising with a lower respiratory tract infection like bronchitis is never a good idea. Always consult a doctor before starting an exercise program or exercising when you feel under the weather.


When you suffer a bronchial infection, the lining of your bronchial tubes becomes inflamed. These are the airways that connect your windpipe to your lungs. With bronchitis, it becomes more difficult for air to pass in and out of your lungs. You also produce more mucus. The most common bronchitis symptom is a cough. Bronchitis is considered a lower respiratory tract infection. Infections of the nose, throat, sinuses, ears and tonsils are upper respiratory tract infections.


Exercising too much can raise your risk for respiratory tract infections, according to Rice University in Houston, Texas. That’s because it suppresses your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illnesses, especially viral sickness. Your immune system may become weakened due to the cumulative effect of overtraining, or it may happen after a single bout of excessive exercise such as a marathon. The definition of “too much exercise” may be difficult to pinpoint because what is moderate training for some exercisers is overtraining for others. Also, each person’s immune system is unique and factors such as other stresses and personal nutrition also play a role. On the other hand, regular exercise as opposed to over-exercising can help improve your immune function and help reduce effects of age-related declines in immune function.

Expert Insight

Exercising if you already have bronchitis is not a good idea, according to Running Times magazine. As a general rule, if you have symptoms below your neck like a bronchial infection or body aches, you need to take time off from exercising. If you have symptoms above your neck like a runny nose or sneezing you can continue working out. Moderate exercise does not affect the duration or severity of upper respiratory tract infections, even if performed by usually sedentary people, found T. Weidner and T. Schurr, lead authors of a study published in the 2003 British Journal of Sports Medicine.


Getting cold and wet while out exercising is not what makes you ill, so staying inside and working out on a treadmill as opposed to running outside is unlikely to affect your chances of getting sick. Rather, it’s viruses that take hold. To prevent viral illness, eat a well-balanced diet, practice regular hand washing, get a flu shot and get plenty of sleep.

Time Frame

Having a lower respiratory tract infection like bronchitis can hamper your athletic performance for several weeks, according to “Concepts of Athletic Training,” by Ronald P. Pfeiffer and Brent C. Mangus. You need to see a doctor for treatment and advice on when it’s safe to start exercising again. Meanwhile, your doctor likely will put you on a regimen of rest and medication to control coughing.

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