Exercise & Chest Cold & Bacterial Infection

Exercise plays an important role in keeping your body healthy and helping reduce your risks for diseases. However, exercise does not guarantee immunity, and illnesses such as the common cold or other bacterial or viral infections can often develop and get in the way of your regular exercise routine. One common problem is chest colds, which can sometimes be caused by a bacterial infection.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


Chest colds, also known as acute bronchitis, occur when the bronchial tubes of the lungs become inflamed due to a viral infection, although in rare cases the chest cold can also be caused by a bacterial infection. This resulting inflammation causes swelling in the bronchial tubes, which creates excess mucus. The presence of mucus causes coughing that can last as long as eight weeks, advises the Mayo Clinic, although symptoms such as congestion and breathing difficulty typically only last up to two weeks 3.

The Rule

When it comes to exercising while sick with a chest cold, the general rule is that when symptoms are above the neck, such as stuffy nose, sore throat or headache, it is okay to exercise in moderation. However, when signs or symptoms are below the neck, such as the deep cough, high fever and chest congestion associated with bacterial chest colds, it is not recommended that you exercise. Instead, the Mayo Clinic advises that you should rest until the affliction runs its course 23. The Clinic further advises not to exercise if you have a fever 2.

The Reason

Aerobic exercise, especially more intense aerobic exercise that significantly increases your heart rate such as running, places stress on the body. Although this stress increases endurance and strength, it also pulls energy away from the immune system, temporarily depressing it, suggests a 2007 study by the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Loughborough University. With less ability to fight the bacteria causing the chest cold, the infection can become worse, extending how long you have the chest cold or making it worse, and even lead to pneumonia.

Signs of Pneumonia

Specific signs that a bacterial chest cold might be progressing to pneumonia include flu-like symptoms such as high fever, sweating, shaking and chills. Fatigue and muscle pain may also accompany pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia can progress from a chest cold infection of the strep bacteria, more specifically Streptococcus pneumoniae. If your fever is 102 degrees Farenheit or greater and lasts for more than a couple of days, see your doctor as soon as possible. Pneumonia can become serious if not treated quickly and appropriately.