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Exercising with Bronchitis: When to Work Out and When to Rest

Exercising with Bronchitis: When to Work Out and When to Rest

Exercising with Bronchitis: Is it a Bad Idea?

A daily workout routine is a great habit for a healthy body and mind. However, is it safe to continue working out when we are ill? Should we lead a normal, active life while we are down with simple health conditions like fever, or perhaps more serious conditions? In this article, we will focus on whether exercising with bronchitis is safe.

Exercising with Bronchitis: The Above-the-neck and Below-the-neck Rules

Medical experts often recommend the above-the-neck and below-the-neck rules to decide whether a workout session would be advisable when one is feeling unwell. Let’s take a look at what these rules mean.

Above-the-neck Rule

According to this rule, it is safe to exercise with health conditions that are restricted to body parts located above the neck. In fact, a workout may improve blood circulation, unblock sinuses, and make you feel flexible and rejuvenated – an overall feeling of wellness.

Below are the most common symptoms of above-the-neck health conditions:

However, there are certain exceptions to this rule as well. Some believe that exercising with a runny nose, cold, or sneezing is safe. However, others are of the opinion that it is best to keep away from working out when displaying such symptoms, and also when you have a fever. It is especially true when your body temperature is more than 38 degrees C. Exercising with fever may raise your internal body temperature further, aggravating your health condition.

Below-the-neck Rule

In case of health conditions associated with body parts below the neck, it is usually advised that you skip your fitness session.

The symptoms to watch out for that should discourage you from working out are:

  • Fever with chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feelings of tightness in the chest
  • Inflammation or irritation in the chest
  • Breathlessness
  • Body aches
  • Tired muscles

Exercising with Bronchitis

When is it safe to return to exercising with bronchitis?

Exercising with bronchitis is a strict no-no, as it is a below-the-neck condition. But, how long you should keep away from your fitness routine depends on the severity of your health condition. On average, symptoms of bronchitis take at least 2 weeks to heal. However, a more serious condition, or lack of treatment may prolong its symptoms. You are the best judge of the right time to bounce back to your daily active lifestyle. After you feel better, you can gradually return to exercising rather than all at once.

Exercising with Bronchitis: Exercise-induced Bronchoconstriction

Exercising with symptoms of below-the-neck diseases can aggravate your condition. It will also defeat the purpose of being under treatment. Other bronchial diseases may also occur if you exercise with bronchitis or asthma.

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, or EIB, occurs when the bronchial airways narrow down as a result of physical activities. This condition was previously referred to as exercise-induced asthma. A vast majority of people with asthma also have EIB. However, not everyone with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction has asthma. In case you still want to exercise with bronchitis or EIB, a medical expert can recommend a diet and treatment plan so that you can work out without causing yourself harm.

Causes of EIB

EIB occurs when water or heat, or both, gets drained from the bronchial airways while exercising. Inhaling while exercising with EIB dries up the airways, as the air outside is drier than the air in your body. The symptoms of EIB may start a couple of minutes after you start exercising. They may continue for as long as 10 to 15 minutes after you have wrapped up your workout session.

Certain conditions during exercises and sports activities can trigger the symptoms of EIB. These include:

  • Temperature during hot yoga
  • Pollution during a run or while cycling
  • Chlorinated water while swimming
  • Dry air while playing hockey or ice skating
  • Carpets, new equipment, or air sprays in a gym

Symptoms of EIB

These symptoms may be experienced by anyone, even those who do not suffer from EIB. However, it will be more pronounced and severe for people who exercise with bronchitis or EIB.

Common symptoms of EIB include:

  • Difficulty in breathing or breathlessness
  • Severe cough
  • Wheezing or the sharp sound that accompanies inhaling and exhaling
  • Soreness of the throat
  • Feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Weak or compromised immunity
  • Diarrhea

EIB mostly gets triggered or aggravated by dry, cold weather and a burst of physical activities. Physical activities that do not usually trigger the health condition are walking, and some field sports like baseball, volleyball, etc. However, it varies from person to person. Humidity and warmth of water help people with EIB to breathe.

Diagnosis of EIB

Below is the usual diagnostic process for this health condition:

  • Your allergist will thoroughly check your personal medical history and family history of health conditions related to difficulty in breathing.
  • He/she will ask about the location where you exercise with bronchitis or EIB because certain environments with pollutants and dry, cold air often tend to act as triggers. Indoor environments that contain a lot of allergens, like the gym, can also cause flare-ups. Indoor air with high trichloramine that is used in chlorinating swimming pools is yet another source of allergen.
  • You may be asked about your schedule and type of physical activities that you perform.
  • He/she may check your breathing before, during, and after a session on the treadmill or exercise bike.

Key takeaway

Make sure you follow your doctor’s advice. If you have bronchitis, take proper treatment and ample of rest. Resume routine sports or exercising with bronchitis only after your doctor allows you to do so.

Learn more about Bronchitis here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Can You Exercise with a Cold? https://www.lung.org/blog/can-you-exercise-with-a-cold Accessed on 15/05/2020

Getting active when you have asthma https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/living-with-asthma/exercise-and-activities/ Accessed on 15/05/2020

Exercise-induced Bronchoconstriction (EIC) https://acaai.org/asthma/types-asthma/exercise-induced-bronchoconstriction-eib Accessed on 15/05/2020

Acute bronchitis https://www.health.harvard.edu/lung-health-and-disease/acute-bronchitis Accessed on 15/05/2020

Can You Exercise When You’re Sick? https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2017/12/can-you-exercise-while-youre-sick/Accessed on 15/05/2020

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jul 01, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel