Asthma & Exercise

Having asthma does not mean that you cannot exercise. However, if you have any limitations in your ability to exercise because of your asthma, your asthma is not being controlled properly.

If your asthma is not controlled and you exercise, you may experience worsening symptoms. If this it the case, you need to take steps to first regain total asthma control prior to resuming your exercise program.  Talk to your doctor if you are unable to exercise or play sports without experiencing asthma symptoms. Once you have total control, you will be able to exercise without asthma symptoms.

Excercise Induced Asthma (EIA)

If your asthma is under control and you experience asthma symptoms five or 10 minutes after exercising, this is probably due to exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Exercise-induced asthma occurs because the airways are sensitive to temperature and humidity changes, especially when breathing in cold, dry air through the mouth. Air that passes through the mouth is bypassing the nose, which normally humidifies and warms the air prior to its reaching the lungs.

The diagnosis of exercise-induced asthma is made by performing a breathing test (spirometry) at rest and then again following exercise. If there is a measured decrease in the speed of air that can be breathed out following exercise, this indicates exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is present.

Contributing factors to exercise-induced asthma include:

  • How long you exercise
  • How hot or cold it is
  • How humid it is
  • Whether allergens, air pollution or other possible triggers are present while you exercise

It’s important to note that the benefits of regular exercise almost always outweigh the risks associated with exercise-induced asthma.

These benefits include:

  • Improved efficiency of the heart and lungs
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance
  • Improved flexibility and posture
  • Improved ability to relax

If you’re unsure whether your symptoms are due to exercise induced asthma, or are the signs of worsening asthma control, talk to your healthcare provider.

Managing Your Asthma & Exercising

Once you and your healthcare provider have established what your exercise regimen should be, keep the following in mind:

  • Follow your prescribed treatment plan and take your controller medication
  • Take your medication before starting to exercise if advised, and always carry your reliever medication.
  • Start your regimen slowly. Take your time before attempting more demanding exercises.
  • Always warm up before exercising, and cool down after.
  • If you develop symptoms while you are exercising, stop and rest. Take your reliever medication.
  • If you usually exercise outdoors and it’s cold out, op for indoor exercise.
  • If you usually exercise outdoors and the pollution or pollen counts are high, exercise indoors instead. You can check the Air Quality Healthy Index (AQHI) before planning to exercise outdoors.
  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan.

The Role Of Relievers

If your doctor has given you a physical examination and determined that you have exercise-induced asthma they may recommend that you use your reliever medication 10 to 20 minutes before you begin exercising. This can help reduce the likelihood that symptoms associated with exercise-induced asthma will flare up.

Asthma Action Plan

An Asthma Action Plan is a crucial tool for helping manage your asthma and stay healthy. Download one today and complete it with your doctor

Asthma & Allergy HelpLine

Do you have questions about asthma? Contact our free helpline service to be connected with a Certified Respiratory Educator who can provide you with personalized support.

Controlling Asthma

Is your asthma under control? Learn more about what it means to have proper asthma control. A symptom-free life is possible with proper asthma management.

Breathe Easy: a Guide For Staying Active With Asthma

Download a copy of our Breathe Easy: Guide for staying active and healthy with asthma.  It provides useful information about managing your asthma and taking control of your disease to live an active, symptom-free life. [Click here to download in French].