Can You Exercise With Asthma?

With today being World Asthma Day, what better time is there to talk about this condition than today? Do you or someone you know have asthma and ever wondered whether it is safe to exercise? Well, look no further. Here we will be discussing the symptoms of asthma, exercise-induced asthma, whether a person with asthma can safely exercise, types of appropriate exercise and tips on exercising with the condition.


What Are Asthma Symptoms?

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma is a condition where the airways can swell and become narrower, causing mild, moderate or severe breathing problems which can sometimes affect activities of daily living.

Here are the main symptoms of asthma:

  • Tightness or pain in the chest.
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that become more severe during a period of illness which affects the respiratory tract.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Disturbed sleep caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing.
  • Wheezing/whistling noise on exhalation, particularly in children.

Exercise is one of the potential triggers of symptoms for asthma sufferers and affects around 90% of people with the condition. This could mean that your asthma is not very well controlled and in this instance you should speak to your doctor to review your medication. If you only experience symptoms when you exercise, you may have a specific type of asthma called exercise-induced asthma that is only triggered by exercise.

Factors which are known to play a part in increasing the risk of asthma symptoms during exercise include:

  • Activities which involve extended periods of deep breathing, such as soccer, swimming and long-distance running.
  • Cold or dry air.
  • Air pollution.
  • Chemicals used in the process of re-surfacing ice rinks.
  • Chlorine used in swimming pools.

It is important to consult a medical professional if you think you may be experiencing exercise-induced asthma, as there are a number of conditions which can cause similar symptoms.


Can A Person With Asthma Exercise?

If you have been wondering whether it is a good idea to exercise with asthma, the answer is yes! Pulmonary rehabilitation for asthma is a program where you will be guided by a respiratory physiologist who will guide you through the best exercises for your asthma condition. You can improve asthma with exercise and it is actually beneficial for your condition to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. A respiratory physiologist will also teach you breathing techniques to help significantly improve your condition.

As long as you have your asthma under control by taking the recommended medication, you should be able to partake in any kind of exercise from walking to running. In fact, there are many world-class athletes with asthma, such as Paula Radcliffe, Bradley Wiggins, and David Beckham.

So now you know that you can do regular exercise with asthma, you may be wondering if exercise can improve asthma. The answer is, yes it can!

By giving your lungs a regular workout you decrease the risk of experiencing symptoms by:

  • Boosting your immune system, thus reducing the risk of asthma symptoms developing from coughs and colds.
  • Naturally releasing endorphins which help relieve stress and depression, a known trigger for asthma symptoms.
  • Improving lung health and function which decreases breathlessness.
  • Encouraging a healthy weight which helps the lungs to work less hard, thus reducing the risk of symptoms.

It is important to note that if you suffer from exercise-induced asthma, you will need to consult your doctor or an exercise physiologist for advice on the right types of exercise for you, and how best to manage your symptoms during exercise.


Types Of Exercises For Asthma

As long as your asthma symptoms are generally well controlled, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to partake in a range of activities. However, it is important to be mindful that certain activities like soccer, basketball and long-distance running are more likely to flare up symptoms because they require constant activity. Furthermore, sports such as skiing could be dangerous for asthma sufferers as cold weather causes narrowing of the airways.

In order to be the most beneficial, it is best to incorporate a combination of aerobic, strengthening and stretching exercises. Some examples of these are:

Tennis Game

  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Soccer
  • Badminton
  • Tennis
  • Cricket
  • Netball
  • Weight lifting
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi

Any of these activities can be undertaken at a moderate or more vigorous intensity, depending on your overall fitness level. Be sure to take your time to build up your stamina, especially if you have not exercised for a while.


Tips On Exercising With Asthma

Firstly before undertaking any exercise, make sure that your asthma is well-controlled and if you have any concerns about this, it would be a good idea to talk it through with your doctor to review your medication and ensure that you are taking it correctly.

Here are some top tips on exercising with asthma:


  • Always carry your blue (reliever) inhaler in case you experience any symptoms during exercise.
  • Avoid outdoor activities when it is very cold, especially if cold air is a known trigger for you.
  • Avoid outdoor activities when the pollen count is high, if this is a known trigger. Also ensure you take medicines to treat your hay fever during this time.
  • Avoid outdoor activities when air pollution is high.
  • If you are exercising with others, ensure they know about your asthma so they can recognise your symptoms, should they arise.
  • Have an up-to-date written asthma action plan.
  • Make sure you warm up and cool down properly (around 10 minutes) to prepare and circulate oxygen to your muscles, and help reduce a sudden temperature change in your lungs.

If you have exercise-induced asthma, how can you treat it naturally? In order to manage the condition and lessen the severity of symptoms, it is especially important to warm up and cool down adequately to prepare your lungs for exercise, and you should avoid exercise altogether if you are experiencing any symptoms of cold or viral infection. In addition to these natural aids, to help prevent symptoms it is important to use your inhaler or prescribed medication before undertaking any exercise.


Can Asthma Go Away With Exercise?

Although there is no actual cure for asthma, an increasing number of studies have shown that exercise can considerably reduce the risk of asthma symptoms and potential attacks by improving breathing control and general health. Pulmonary rehabilitation plays a great role in this significant improvement in symptoms and we encourage asthma patients to contact a respiratory physiologist for a customized treatment plan.

Because exercise plays an important role in the successful management of the condition, you just have to find the right activities to suit you and time it right, so you can avoid certain conditions known to flare up your symptoms.

In summary, if you are considering whether to exercise with asthma, go for it! It is not only beneficial for your symptoms but also for improving your general health which can only be a good thing, after all.

If you need some advice and support about the best course of action, contact Livewell Rehab for an appointment with an experienced respiratory physiologist who will work with you to customise a suitable exercise program for your needs.

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