Asthma Exercise

If you have ever gone through the discomfort and panic of an asthma attack, the last thing you might think to do is go for a jog. However, exercise is an important part of living a healthy, productive lifestyle. So how does someone living with asthma stay active without suffering through an episode?

Many ways to keep active with asthma exist. The following are some preventive measures and tips to get fit and stay asthma friendly.

Symptoms, Triggers and Risk Factors

Before talking about how to avoid an asthma attack when exercising, it’s helpful to know what prompts one.

Asthma is a disease of the airways, or bronchial tubes. Before an asthma attack, the airways are relaxed and air can easily pass into the lungs. During an attack, the airways constrict and begin to fill with mucus, making it difficult to breath. Asthma constricts breathing.

Some common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Coughing
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing.

Certain conditions cause the onset of asthma, including:

  • Animal dander, dust, mold, pollen
  • Chemical vapors
  • Cold air
  • Exercise
  • Illnesses, especially ones that affect breathing
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Wood smoke.

Studies have linked asthma to both your genes and your lifestyle choices. Gender, family history or allergies can play a part in developing asthma. Younger males and women over 40 are more likely to develop asthma. A family history of asthma makes you 60 percent more likely to have the disease. Likewise, allergy-prone individuals are also at a greater risk of developing the condition.

For those with perfect genes, lifestyle habits can also lead to asthma. Smoking increases the likelihood of you and your children developing asthma. Studies have also linked obesity and asthma. Overweight individuals are twice as likely to live with the disease.

Asthma and Exercise

Exercise-induced asthma is triggered by extended periods of heavy breathing and physical exertion. Most chronic asthma sufferers experience asthma symptoms as a result of exercise. Others with mild cases of asthma may only experience symptoms after workouts.

Some symptoms of exercise-induced asthma include:

  • Being winded or exceptionally tired after exercise
  • Coughing after running or playing outdoors
  • Difficulty running after a few minutes.

Exercise acts as a trigger for asthma due to the way you breathe when you workout. During normal breathing, you inhale through your nose, which warms and moistens the air before it reaches the airways. During exercise, you typically inhale through your mouth, and the dry, cool air can irritate the airways, causing the muscles to constrict.

Though one might think that avoiding exercise is the best way to get around this risk, the opposite is true. A lifestyle without exercise has actually been shown to double your risk of developing asthma. You can get around this risk by working out three to five times per week for 30 minutes.

How to Exercise with Asthma

Exercise is a key part of staying healthy, whether or not you have asthma. For those who do live with the condition, steps may be taken to make working out more comfortable and worry-free:

  1. Set Boundaries: Avoid exercise when you are sick or have symptoms of infection. Stick to exercises that are within your abilities and comfort level.
  2. Treatment: Use your inhaler just prior to beginning exercise. If you regularly engage in strenuous and prolonged exercise, consider a daily pill or other long-term treatment.
  3. Warm-Up: Get your body ready for exercise with proper stretching and light warm-up activities. Once you’ve finished your workout, take a few minutes to cool down.
  4. Weather-Proofing: When the weather is cold, wear a scarf or a mask over your mouth to help warm the air you breathe. On nice days, check the weather to ensure that pollen counts are not high enough to aggravate your asthma.

Some types of exercises are also more favorable for asthmatics since the physical activity is in spurts, including:

  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Gymnastics
  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Short track and field events (i.e., throwing, pole vaulting, etc.)
  • Swimming
  • Volleyball
  • Walking
  • Wrestling.

Exercises that involve long periods of running or cold weather, such as soccer or hockey, are more likely to aggravate exercise-induced asthma.

A healthy lifestyle can help you stay happy and productive, and exercise is an integral part of that goal. Use these simple steps to keep exercise-induced asthma under control, and get moving!


Ben-Joseph, E. (2007). Exercise-induced asthma. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the KidsHealth Web site: 

Engel, M. (2009). Asthma and exercise: Not what you think. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Los Angeles Times Web site: 

Gelfand, J. (2008). Exercise-induced asthma. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Medicine Net Web site: