Staying active when you have asthma

A common trigger for asthma is exercising and can become worse if you exercise in cold temperatures and dry air.

Published: Thursday 19 September 2019



A common trigger for asthma is exercising. When asthma sufferers exercise, they may experience difficulty in breathing, coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest which is also known as exercise-induced asthma. Asthma can become worse if you exercise in cold temperatures and dry air.

However, asthma should not be a reason for you to avoid exercise and you can still enjoy all the benefits of regular exercise without experiencing asthma symptoms as long as you follow an exercise regime that suits you for a length of time you can manage.

Exercise can offer people with asthma a variety of health benefits such as improvement in heart health and mental health. Not only this, but they will also notice other health benefits such as:

  • Weight loss – reducing the risk of an asthma attack.
  • Improved immune system function – reduces the risk of upper respiratory infections.
  • Improved lung function – increases stamina and reduces shortness of breath.

What are the best exercises for people with asthma?

  • Swimming
    Breathing in the warm, moist air rather than cold dry air can reduce the risk of dry airways caused by increased breathing during exercise. Swimming improves your lung function because it can help control your breathing. It can be a form of gentle exercise and gradually form into a more intense activity as your lung capacity and fitness improves.
  • Yoga
    With its gentle stretches and poses, yoga can be an all-round stress relieving activity. Yoga teaches you the art of concentration, with the main focus around controlled, rhythmic breathing. This form of exercise is great to increase your lung capacity and build overall muscle strength.
  • Walking
    Walking 30 minutes a day offers huge health benefits to people with asthma. It’s a great way to increase your lung capacity and significantly improve your fitness. A study found that adults who walked three times a week for 3 months improved their asthma control and fitness levels without triggering an asthma attack.
  • Racquet sports
    Tennis and other forms of racquet sports is a great form of exercise if you have asthma. The short bursts of energy on the court with regular rests in between sets can give you more control over your asthma symptoms. If you’re playing doubles with a partner, the bursts of activity are less intense.
  • Running
    Running will strengthen your respiratory muscles and running short distances isn’t likely to provoke asthma. Since it can be a strenuous activity, the key is to know your limits and track the distance you can run. Always carry your inhaler with you and your doctor may advise you to take it prior to exercise to prevent asthma symptoms.
  • Golf
    The combination of alternating swings and walking is a great way to keep your asthma symptoms in check.

How to manage your asthma when you exercise

  • Always talk to your doctor to find what activity is best for you. They can devise ways before you exercise to manage your symptoms.
  • Make sure you perform warm up and cool down exercises.
  • Do not exercise if you are unwell.
  • Pay attention to the weather before exercising because when the air is cool and dry or when pollen count is too high you can risk an asthma flare up.
  • Exercise at a level that is manageable for you.
  • Keep your inhaler on hand with you when you exercise.

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