Having Asthma Does Not Mean You Cannot Exercise

People with asthma can get great benefits from exercise.  It helps strengthen the cardiovascular system and assists in weight control and blood sugar.  However, many people with allergy-induced asthma have severe breathing problems during exercise.  Some of theories about why this happens when exercising include:

  • Breathing through the mouth (breathing in more allergens/pollution)
  • Cold, dry air
  • Breathing faster
  • Air pollution
  • High pollen counts

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that at least 80-90% of people with allergy-induced asthma also have problems with exercise-induced asthma.  It can also occur in people who do not suffer from chronic asthma.  So, what is a person to do when they can't breathe while exercising?

Get a proper diagnosis:  Asthma is a life-threatening condition that can be made easier with medications and other techniques. If you haven't had a diagnosis of asthma by a physician, it might be time to get one if you suspect you have it. Generally, people who have exercise-induced asthma experience some of the following symptoms during or after exercising:

  • Coughing
  • Chest Tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Unusual tiredness during exercise
  • Loss of performance

Some of the above symptoms may also be a result of being out of shape and taking on too much exercise too soon.  However, unlike being out of condition, stopping the exercise sometimes doesn't stop an asthma attack.  People with asthma can continue to have breathing problems ten or twenty minutes after they stop exercising.

Take your medications:  If you are diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, be sure to take your medications as the doctor ordered.  Most patients with this type of asthma take a pre-exercise medication as well as a long-term preventative medicine.  These are in addition to a rescue inhaler.  Preventative medicines must be taken regularly to have the best effect.

Plan your exercise around your allergies:  If you have outdoor allergies to pollen and grass, try to exercise during low pollen periods.  Also, avoid areas with high pollution such as busy roads. Do not exercise if you are already having an attack or beginning to have one.  If your asthma is not well controlled, talk to your doctor.

Having asthma does not mean you have to give up on exercise.  Once controlled, most people with asthma can exercise in a similar way as those who do not have it.  Regular exercise can strength the lungs and help make breathing easier.  Keep in touch with an allergy specialist and let them know if your asthma gets worse or the medications are not helping.