The Best Tips for Running with Asthma – a Guide to Managing Your Condition

Posted February 3, 2021 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

If you have asthma, then you likely know that exercise can sometimes aggravate your symptoms. Asthma shouldn’t keep you from running or exercising the way you want, though.

So, in this article, we will discuss tips for running with asthma and potential triggers that you can avoid. Here is a quick summary to help get us started, then we will dive into more of the specifics.

Running with Asthma: Running with asthma can help improve your symptoms long-term. However, certain steps should be taken to ensure your condition is controlled before you start running. For example, warming up properly and avoiding triggers such as pollen can ensure you are not at risk of having an asthma attack in the middle of your run.

With this takeaway summary in mind, let’s get into the details. Firstly, we need to understand how running can actually help improve your asthma condition.

How Running can be Beneficial for Your Asthma

Running with Asthma

Asthma can be largely contributed to poor lung function. However, running and other types of physical activity can improve your lung function. Running will help increase the endurance capacity of your respiratory system. This allows for fuller and deeper breaths.

Regular and consistent exercise will also increase the number of alveoli and capillaries. More capillaries and alveoli mean that oxygen can be provided to the muscles much quicker.

Studies also suggest that running and exercise can decrease the amount of inflammation in one’s airways. This allows for increased airflow and decreased asthma symptoms. 

Triggers when Running with Asthma

Despite the benefits that running with asthma can bring, concerns about asthma symptoms while running are serious. Not only can asthma symptoms worsen from bronchoconstriction due to exercise, but environmental factors can trigger asthma too. 

Running in cold weather can do more harm than good. Cold weather is more likely to cause swelling and fluid in the lungs, which causes airways to tighten, limiting airflow.

Running when pollen or other allergens are present in the air can also be harmful. When pollen and allergens are breathed in, they can trigger inflammation, causing a blockage in the airways.

Running in these environmental conditions can lead to severe asthma symptoms that may include wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Now that you understand the potential triggers when running with asthma let’s get into some tips to help you.

Tips for Running with Asthma

Below is a list of tips that will help you when running with asthma.

Talk to Your Doctor

The first and most important tip we can offer for running with asthma is to talk to your doctor and create a plan. If you have not been diagnosed with asthma but are experiencing chest tightness or breathing difficulties, you need to see your doctor determine what the cause is.

Creating an action plan with your doctor will help you better understand the severity of your condition, the medicines you need, what might trigger your symptoms, and what you should do if there is an emergency.

Always Carry Your Rescue Inhaler

Individuals that have asthma are often prescribed a rescue inhaler. This is the type of inhaler that is used only at the onset of asthma symptoms. You should always carry your rescue inhaler with you, especially if you are exercising. Typically, a rescue inhaler will provide you relief within about 20 minutes.

Whether you believe you will need it or not, always carry your rescue inhaler when running. You will need to use it right away if you begin to experience breathing difficulties.

Breathe Properly

Properly breathing is crucial for everyone when they run, not just those that are asthmatic. Breathing correctly when you run is often difficult to grasp and does require practice.

Firstly, make breathing a decision when you run. This will allow you to be more aware of your breathing, and you will be able to pick up on symptoms quicker. It will also help create consistency in your breathing, which decreases your chances of having asthma symptoms.

Run After it Rains

Rain can help reduce the amount of allergens in the air. So, planning your runs around weather patterns can reduce your exposure to allergens that can trigger asthma symptoms.

Know When to Run Inside

Many people prefer to run outside versus at the gym or your home on a treadmill. However, when you run with asthma, it is sometimes best to run inside. Here’s why.

If it is cold and dry outside, it can take a toll on the respiratory system. When cold air is breathed in, it can cause mast cells to release chemicals. These chemicals often trigger asthma symptoms. Your chest can start to feel tight and itchy, and you may notice an increase in phlegm.

So, before heading out for a run, check the temperature. Running in a warmer climate can prove to be beneficial if you have asthma.

Check the Pollen Count

When you check the weather, go ahead and check the pollen count as well. As mentioned before, pollen can act as an allergen and trigger symptoms. Avoid running outside if the pollen count is high, as this will put you at risk of breathing difficulties and make it more challenging to run.

Properly Warm Up

Warming up correctly is crucial for everyone planning on going on a run, not just those who have asthma. Gradually and properly warming up about 10 minutes before a run can help prepare your lungs and the rest of your body for exercise.

Take Time to Cool Down

Similar to warming up, properly cool down. Gradually decrease your exertion and let that transition to a cool-down. Any drastic change in exertion or climates can be potential triggers for asthma. So, gradually bringing your heart rate back down will help transition your body from being in a state of exertion to a resting state.

Cover Your Face

Running with Asthma

Covering your nose and mouth with a scarf or other cloth material when you run may sound counterintuitive. However, doing this when it is cooler outside will help you breathe in warmer air. This is one option to opt for if you need to run in a cooler climate and do not have access to a treadmill.

Drink Room-Temp Water

When you run, your mouth and throat can become dry, which may trigger asthma symptoms. Room temperature water is the best option for preventing this. Cold water may sound better in the moment, but that can put a greater toll on the lungs. Room temperature water is easier to get down and is the best option for hydration.

Shower Following Your Run

After you run, rinsing off ensures your body is free from any potential allergens that could have been picked up while on your run. It can also be a good way to provide warm moist air to breathe in.

Wear Medical I.D.

If you are running with asthma, then it is a good idea to wear a medical I.D. In the case of an emergency, you want others to be aware of your condition so that you can receive the proper treatment. Without a medical I.D, it can be difficult to get immediate help, putting your life at risk.

Conclusion

We hope this has provided you with some needed tips for running with asthma. Keep in mind that you should always ask your doctor for official advice when it comes to managing your health condition.

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