Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Is Exercise Safe for People with Asthma and Exercise-induced Bronchospasm?


by Amber Galer, BS, RRT

Have your asthma symptoms been holding you back from your favorite exercise activities? Don’t let your asthma and exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) stop you from having fun! Nobody should ever need to sit on the sidelines with fear their symptoms will get worse if they play or exercise.

Some people may ask, “Is it safe for me to exercise and play sports if I have asthma?” The answer is yes it is. In fact, most health care providers encourage 30 minutes of daily physical activity even if you have been diagnosed with asthma or EIB.

People who suffer from asthma symptoms may use it as an excuse not to exercise or have a fear that symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and decreased endurance will stop them from being part of the team or exercising. These thoughts should not hold them back from being physically fit and enjoying the activities they love.

Exercising with Asthma

Not only is regular exercise safe for asthmatics, it can also decrease future attacks and the symptoms related to it. Taking the proper preventative steps and improved conditioning has shown to enhance these positive outcomes. Try some of these…

  • Give yourself plenty of time and starting out slow with a good warm-up and cool down — this will help reduce the chance of symptoms arising.
  • Try not to overdo yourself at the beginning — this will help build strength and endurance.
  • Set small reachable goals — to prevent burnout or quitting early.
  • Push yourself slightly harder each round — this stretches the limits to your abilities making the lungs stronger.
  • Drinking plenty of water — staying hydrated keeps the body’s fluid level up and keeping the lung tissues moist at a cellular level.
  • Follow a nutritious diet — it will support the energy required, so you don’t feel depleted at the end of the exercise session.

Activities To Try

  • Indoor or outdoor biking
  • Indoor or outdoor track walking and running
  • Aerobics
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Golf

Be Aware of the Risks

Something to keep in mind is that asthma can be caused or triggered by exercise (EIA).  Proper precautions need to be followed if you have been diagnosed with this type of asthma. Vigorous or high-intensity aerobic activity might not be for you, try low-impact sports or low-stress workouts like yoga and Palates to prevent EIA. These types of activities can be done for a longer period of time without the higher risk.

Know what triggers your asthma and be prepared to change your workout routine if needed. Stress, respiratory infections, anxiety, pollution, tobacco smoke, and all allergens could be triggers and should be avoided if possible.

The majority of asthmatics (80-90%) suffer symptoms of EIB due to cold, dry air. Your lungs need warm humidified air going into them when you exercise. Some forms of exercise change the way you breathe forcing you to take fast, short breaths through your mouth instead of your nose. This causes the soft tissue in the airways to dry out and constrict, reducing airflow to your lungs. It can be prevented by taking a “beta2-agonist” prescribed by your doctor to relax the smooth muscles in the airway at least 20 minutes prior to exercise.

Also, wearing a workout face mask will assist in breathing humidified air during cold outdoor activities.

Asthma Management       

With the help of a physician and a respiratory therapist, a fitness plan can be tailored for all ages. Appropriate management with medications and proper timing will enable all levels of activity to be enjoyed without respiratory limitations. Staying on schedule with prescribed medications is necessary and will minimize any “flare ups” while not working out.  

If any symptoms arise during exercise, follow your doctor’s orders in taking any relief medications and seek their advice on continuing your workouts.

Live Your Life!

It’s time to start having fun and enjoying the activities that make you happy without the worries of asthma symptoms.

Amber Galer is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and member of the American Association for Respiratory Care in Salt Lake City, UT.

Additional Resources

Viewed on 6/24/2013
Viewed on 6/24/2013
Viewed on 6/24/2013
Viewed on 6/24/2013

Top of Page Back