Exercising with Asthma

About 20 million Americans suffer from asthma symptoms today, according to the American Lung Association.  And many of them experience a flare-up of symptoms when they engage in strenuous activity. Further, some people who don’t normally have asthma can even experience symptoms when they exercise.

Symptoms of EIA

Exercise-induced asthma, commonly referred to as EIA, generally occurs within 5 to 20 minutes of participating in an activity. This condition is characterized by typical asthma symptoms, such as:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

Become Active on a Regular Basis

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults exercise at least five days a week for 30 minutes at a time. These guidelines also apply to people with asthma, as long as you can keep your condition under control. Before you head for the gym, here are some simple steps you can take:

  • Use your pre-exercise inhaler as directed
  • Allow extra time to warm-up before more strenuous exercise
  • Exercise indoors on cold days or when pollen count is high
  • Drink plenty of water

If you experience symptoms during your workout, follow your individualized asthma management plan, which will likely recommend you stop and take your quick-relief inhaler.  If asthma symptoms continue to be troublesome, your doctor may prescribe a long-action steroid inhaler or other medication to help you better manage the condition. 

Exercise Strategically

Some sports will be more taxing on your body than others, so the key is to try different levels of intensity and see what feels right for you. Generally, those sports that require shorter bursts of exertion (rather than longer, more intense workouts) will be kindest to your breathing.
Some good choices include:

  • Biking
  • Gymnastics
  • Wrestling
  • Baseball
  • Aerobics
  • Walking

Swimming is also a great choice, since an indoor pool offers a warm, moist environment ideal for asthma. For some people, though, the chlorine can trigger symptoms. Many people with asthma try to avoid sports like skiing and ice hockey, since inhaling cold burst of air can cause their asthma to flare up.

Know Your Limits

While exercising with asthma can be safe as long as you have your doctor’s approval and some simple precautions in place, you should always listen to your body and stop if you feel yourself exceeding your limits.