Asthma and Exercise

Is It Safe to Exercise if I Have Asthma?

One of the goals of asthma treatment is to help you maintain a normal and healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise and other physical activities. Taking your asthma medications as prescribed, avoiding triggers, and checking your symptoms and how well your lungs are working will help you achieve this goal.

If asthma symptoms prevent you from fully taking part in activities, talk to your asthma doctor. A small change in your asthma action plan may be all that is needed to provide asthma relief during exercise or other activity.

Can Exercise Help My Asthma?

Yes, regular exercise can:

Best and Worst Workouts for Asthma

Team sports that involve short bursts of exertion -- like volleyball, gymnastics, baseball, and wrestling -- are good, and so are solo or group leisure activities like walking, biking, and hiking. Swimming is also a good choice because you usually breathe in plenty of warm, moist air while you do it. It’s also a great way to build upper-body strength.

Activities that involve long periods of exertion, such as soccer, distance running, basketball, and field hockey, may not be as easy. Also, cold-weather sports, such as ice hockey, cross-country skiing, and ice skating, may pose challenges. But many people with asthma are able to fully take part in these activities.

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What Should I Do to Control My Asthma When I Exercise?

  • Before starting an exercise program, talk to your doctor. He will help you decide what activities are best for you. He will come up with an action plan that will tell you what to do before exercise and if you have symptoms during exercise.
  • Always use your pre-exercise asthma medicine (inhaled bronchodilators or cromolyn), if directed by your asthma action plan, before beginning exercise.
  • Perform warm-up exercises, and have a good cool-down period after exercise.
  • If the weather is cold, exercise indoors or wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth.
  • If you have allergic asthma, avoid exercising outdoors when pollen counts or air pollution counts are high.
  • Restrict exercise when you have a viral infection, like a cold.
  • Exercise at a level that is right for you.

Staying active is important for your physical and mental health. Remember: Asthma is not a reason to avoid exercise. With proper diagnosis and the most effective treatment, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of an exercise program without having asthma symptoms.

If you have any questions, talk to your doctor.

What Should I Do if I Have an Asthma Attack While Exercising?

Your doctor will probably talk to you about exercise-induced-bronchoconstriction (she might use the old name, exercise-induced asthma). It can happen whether you have asthma or not. It’s when your airways constrict and you have asthma symptoms during exercise, such as:

If this happens to you, stop and follow the instructions in your asthma action plan. Keep your rescue inhaler handy, and use it as directed as soon as you have symptoms. If your symptoms are not getting better, call for emergency medical help.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on May 18, 2019

Sources

SOURCES: 

The Canadian Lung Association: "Exercise & Asthma." 

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Tips to Remember: Exercise-Induced Asthma," “Asthma and Exercise.”

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: "Exercise-Induced Asthma," “Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (Asthma).”

Health Central: "Asthma."

Asthma UK: “Exercise and activities.”

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