Asthma and Exercise – Can Exercise Help Your Asthma?

Posted January 15, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

Asthma affects an estimated 25 million people in the United States. Symptoms of asthma occur when the airways tighten, inflame, or fill with mucus. An asthma attack can include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness, pain, or pressure in the chest. Asthma and exercise can be a dangerous combination, but could there be benefits to it?

asthma and exercise

While exercise can provide a multitude of health benefits, asthma symptoms can also be triggered during and after exercise. Some types of exercise can cause asthma flare-ups such as wheezing and chest tightness, but some exercise is safe, improves heart and lung wellness, and enhances overall quality of life.

People who have asthma have to be more careful about which activities they choose to participate in. With a rescue inhaler and an asthma action plan in place, exercise can be both safe and rewarding. People with asthma should make certain that their symptoms are controlled with medication and choose exercise activities carefully, as some are more recommended than others. If you’re interested in learning more about how exercise can help asthma, just keep reading.


Asthma and exercise is the topic of discussion because nearly 90% of people who have asthma will experience an increase in symptoms when they exercise. Coughing is the most common, and sometimes only, symptom of exercise-induced asthma. Symptoms typically occur following a few minutes of exercise and usually get worse 5-10 minutes after a person has finished exercising.

While exercise-induced asthma can cause some difficulty in your exercise routine, there are steps to take to lessen the chance of feeling the effects. The primary cause of exercise-induced asthma is breathing cool, dry air, which is important to note because most people breathe in through the mouth while exercising.

A good tip is to breathe through the nose, which reduces the coolness and dryness of the air. Therefore, reducing the chances of experiencing asthma flare-ups. Common triggers may include high pollen counts, smoke or other irritants, raised levels of air pollution, a recent asthma attack, or a recent upper respiratory infection.


Although people with asthma need to be more thoughtful about the way they exercise, regular exercise comes with many benefits. Exercise can strengthen your breathing muscles to help your lungs work better. It can boost your immune system, so you catch fewer colds. Exercise will help you lose weight to cut the odds of an asthma attack and create feel-good chemicals in your body.

Improving heart health, boosting mental health, and reducing the risk of many different health conditions is important for anyone. But it is even more important for someone that struggles with symptoms of asthma.

Talk to your doctor about creating an asthma action plan. This may include regular exercise so that you can experience an overall improvement in symptoms. On top of this, you can begin experiencing the typical benefits of staying active.


While exercise is an excellent way to improve lung function and promote weight loss, there are certain types of exercise that are better suited for someone with asthma. The goal is to help improve lung function without overstraining the lungs.

Team sports involving short bursts of exertion are a great way to get some exercise with a lower chance of asthma flare-ups. For example, these sports may include volleyball, gymnastics, baseball, and wrestling. Solo or group leisure activities like golf, walking, biking, and hiking are also great ways to combine asthma and exercise.

When it comes to asthma and exercise, two activities come to mind. Two of the best types of exercise for asthma include swimming and yoga. Swimming allows a person to inhale warm, damp air and work on breath control. Both of those aspects of swimming are beneficial for someone dealing with asthma. Swimming is a gentle activity that can become more intense with practice, increased fitness, and lung capacity. However, keep in mind that the chlorine in the pool water can be a trigger for some people’s asthma symptoms.

Another beneficial way to exercise with asthma is practicing yoga. Yoga focuses on breathing techniques and can help increase lung capacity while also building overall muscle strength. Yoga includes a lot of rhythmic breathing, which lowers stress levels. Reducing stress can help lower the chances of asthma a flare-up.


asthma and exercise

While there are plenty of exercises that you can enjoy with asthma, there are some which should be avoided. Cold-weather sports as well as endurance sports, such as soccer or long-distance running, are more likely to trigger an asthma attack. Therefore, these specific types of activities should be avoided if you have asthma. Don’t be discouraged because there are many ways to exercise with asthma without harming your health.


Exercise has many health benefits, but there are some things to keep in mind. With asthma and exercise, the goal is to reduce the likelihood of having a flare-up.

If you’ve just started exercising, you should avoid high-intensity activities such as running, jogging, and soccer. These activities can push your body too far if you’re not accustomed to regular exercise. People with asthma should avoid exercising in cold and dry environments, such as ice hockey, skiing, and other winter sports. This type of climate can lead to an asthma attack.

One of the most important aspects of exercising with asthma is to listen and pay attention to your body. If you begin to feel symptoms of an asthma flare-up or an asthma attack, stop the activity right away. Wait until your symptoms are under control.

As mentioned above, breathing through the nose rather than the mouth can help. Wearing a scarf over your face in cooler weather may prove to be beneficial as well.

There are some other simple rules to follow with asthma and exercise. For example, warm-up before you exercise, cool-down after and don’t exercise when you’re sick. Make sure your asthma is under control before you begin. Pay careful attention to pollen counts and the air quality if you are exercising outside. Also, always make sure to carry your rescue inhaler and use it if needed to stop asthma symptoms from becoming worse.


asthma and exercise

If you’re exercising and feel symptoms of an asthma attack coming on, stop what you’re doing right away. If you’re having an exercise-induced asthma attack, be sure to take your rescue inhaler. Be sure to follow the guidelines created by your doctor in your asthma action plan. Call 911 if your inhaler isn’t working, or if symptoms persist.

You may need to seek medical attention if wheezing does not subside or if you develop a long-lasting cough, if you notice color changes in the fingernails, or if symptoms don’t reduce after 20 minutes and several uses of a rescue inhaler. Stay as calm as possible and know that help is on the way.

People with asthma can benefit from taking part in specific types of exercise and doing so regularly. The most suitable types of exercise for someone who has asthma include those that focus on breathing and increasing lung capacity, such as yoga and swimming. People with asthma who exercise regularly will often notice an overall improvement in their symptoms as well as experiencing the usual benefits of exercise. If you have asthma, consider adding regular exercise to your routine because exercise can help with asthma.

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Can you exercise with asthma?

Yes, patients with asthma can exercise, but precautions should be taken. Patients should always have their rescue inhaler with them when they exercise.

Can exercise improve asthma symptoms?

Exercise can improve asthma symptoms by improving lung function, increasing endurance, and reducing inflammation.