4 Tips to Help You Exercise Safely With Asthma

For many with asthma, exercising can actually help their condition.

Medically reviewed in July 2021

Many people with asthma think they cannot exercise due to their condition, but that may not be true. In fact, with the guidance of your doctor, being active is one of the best ways to help control asthma and keep a healthy weight. You’ll just have to take a few precautions before you begin an exercise program.

Be prepared
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a possibility that your asthma symptoms may flare up during physical activity. There is a chance symptoms can begin during your workout and extend even after it’s finished. That’s why it’s important to always keep your inhaler handy while exercising so you can use it if needed. Keep it in a pocket or use a lightweight waist pack that stays in place while you move.

Work with your doctor to come up with a plan to treat a potential asthma attack during exercise. Together, you’ll be able to come up with an action plan that includes which medications to take and when you should take them.

Finally, if your symptoms become severe, stop immediately and contact your healthcare provider.

Take note of outdoor weather
Exercising in cold weather can exacerbate asthma symptoms. On frigid days, it may be better to stick to indoor workouts. If you do exercise outdoors when temperatures are chilly, cover your mouth with a buff or scarf to breathe in warmer air. If you love winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing, talk to your doctor. Together you should be able to come up with a plan that allows you to participate in the sports you love.

Allergens and poor air quality can also make it tough to breathe. During allergy season, time your workouts to when pollen levels are the lowest, typically in the early morning and evening hours.

If air quality is poor, it may be healthier for everyone, even those without asthma, to exercise inside. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) measures air pollution around the country. Before heading out, check airnow.gov for the latest forecast in your area.

Don’t exercise while sick
Cold and flu can trigger asthma attacks, even without exercise, especially if you have impaired breathing and coughing. Trying to exercise may only make both your cold and asthma symptoms worse. Use the time to rest and recover from your illness. Remember—the easiest way to help prevent flu and to keep moving is to get your vaccination each year.

Choose the best exercise for your abilities
Activities that combine short bursts of speed with periods of rest tend to work well for those who have asthma. Some examples include volleyball, HIIT classes, golf, swimming (with breaks), or tennis. Walking also provides great fitness benefits.

Endurance sports can be difficult, but not impossible, if your asthma is controlled, which means you may not have to give up your daily runs or pick-up basketball games. A well-thought-out asthma action plan and advice from your doctor can keep you involved in the sports you enjoy. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to warm up before and cool down after.

Medically reviewed in June 2019.

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