Warm Up to Running With Asthma

You may love to run outdoors, but no matter how far or fast you go you can't outrun your asthma.  But despite its presence, it doesn't have to slow you down or turn you into a coach potato. Instead, ask your doctor about how to effectively manage asthma before you slip on your running shoes and head for the track.

The Connection Between Running and Asthma

A study published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology in 2007 discovered that people who used their inhaler before they began their workout experienced fewer asthma symptoms. The benefits remained for several hours, making this approach a viable option for many people with chronic asthma, as well as those who suffer from exercise-induced asthma, which is asthma that occurs specifically when a person engages in strenuous activity.

Running with Asthma

When running or jogging, breathing in through your mouth instead of your nose can pose a risk for experiencing asthma symptoms. This is because the nose warms and filters the air first before it's transported to the lungs.

In the winter, breathing in cold air directly is enough to irritate your sensitive airways and trigger a reaction, while in the summer, heat and humidity can pose a similar challenge. In addition, on days with high pollen and mold counts, you may be breathing in large amounts of these allergens, which can also worsen your asthma symptoms. As a result, even runners who don't have a formal asthma diagnosis may find themselves grappling with exercise-induced bronchospasms.

Exercise Induced Asthma Symptoms

The signs of exercise-induced asthma include:

  • Chest tightness and pain
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

These symptoms may occur during exercise or may present themselves20 minutes or more after you've finished running.

Managing Exercise-Induced Asthma

Take some of the following preventative steps to manage your condition before you head out the door:

  • Check the pollen count and temperature to be sure conditions are conducive to a good, safe workout.
  • Use your fast-acting inhaler about ten minutes before your workout.
  • Be sure to warm up and cool down before you exert yourself.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
  • Wear a scarf over your mouth and nose if you must run in cool air.
  • When it's humid out, run in the early morning before things heat up or plan a walk instead.
  • Listen to your body and notice any wheezing or difficulty breathing.
  • Carry your fast-acting relief inhaler with you in case you experience a flare up during your run.
  • Skip the workout when you're feeling ill.




"American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Work Group Report: Exercise-Induced Asthma." Journal of Clinical Allergies and Immunology, Volume 119, Issue 6 (April 2007): 1349-135813. Web. 6 April 2011.

"Exercise and Cold Weather: Tips to stay safe outdoors." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), Oct. 30, 2010. Web. 30 March 2011.

"Exercise Induced Asthma." Kids Health from Nemours. KidsHealth.org, Oct. 2010. March 2011.

"Exercise Induced Asthma: Not a Walk in the Park." Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics. AANMA.org, 4 Feb. 2009. Web. 6 April 2011.