The 5 Best Exercises for Asthma

Do these activities to stay fit and reduce asthma attack severity.

Medically reviewed in March 2022

men, senior men, middle aged men, workout, fitness
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How Activity Helps Your Lungs

Should your asthma keep you from being active? Of course not! "Not only should those with asthma be able to participate in exercise, but in fact, it may improve their cardiac fitness and reduce the severity of attacks," says Clifford Bassett, MD, founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY.

Some exercises are better than others. Cold-weather sports, like skiing, could be dangerous because cold air narrows your airways. Other sports with constant activity—like soccer, basketball and distance running—may also be more likely to trigger symptoms. So, what activities are best for people with asthma? 

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Swimming could possibly be your best choice. While cold, dry air irritates the lungs of people with asthma, in swimming you're breathing in warm, moist air, which doesn't usually trigger symptoms. The horizontal position of the body while swimming may also make breathing easier. One possible problem is the chlorine in swimming pools, which may irritate the airways. 

older man doing yoga
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With its emphasis on breath control, yoga is another great choice of exercise. In fact, it was once considered to be promising as a treatment for asthma. The jury is still out on that, however, with some studies saying it improves asthma and others saying it's no better than other breathing exercises. Don't let that stop you from using yoga as a form of exercise, though. Just be aware that you'll probably need other treatments for your asthma. 

woman walking in the woods
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Walking is the king, queen and duke of low-impact exercise! No matter what your fitness level is, walking is a great (and easy) way to get your activity level up. Aim for 30 minutes, five times a week or, if you have a fitness tracker or pedometer, 10,000 steps a day. As simple as it is, walking offers huge health benefits—including warding off heart disease, lowering Alzheimer's risk, preventing bone loss, promoting better sleep and trimming off extra pounds.

young man golfing
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If walking is great for asthma, what can make it better? Turn it into a game! Golf is a low-intensity activity that gets you outside and into the fresh air and sunshine. But to really see benefits for your asthma, leave the cart at the clubhouse. You'll burn about 1,500 calories during a four-hour round on 18 holes.

hand holding a softball
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Softball or Baseball

Those local beer-league softball games aren't just for fun and fitness; they may be helping your asthma, too. The short bursts of action in softball and baseball are perfect for people with asthma. Catch a pop fly, get a rest. Get on base, get a rest. Plus, it's fun and social, which is important because living with asthma can take a toll on your mood and mental health. 

stretch, stretching
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Warm Up and Cool Down

Properly warming up is just as important, if not more so, than getting active, according to Dr. Bassett. Plan to warm up for about 10 minutes. This increases the blood flow and oxygen to your muscles, making you ready for the field or course. "The warm up also helps to reduce sudden temperature changes in the lungs, which may aggravate or bring on exercise-triggered asthma," says Bassett.

Equally important is the cool down. "The goals of a proper cool down include gradually lowering the heart rate, helping circulate oxygen to muscles and removing lactic acid byproduct of muscle metabolism," according to Bassett.

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