Exercise and asthma
Is it safe to exercise if I have asthma?
It is important to keep active with asthma, but care may be needed to help prevent the exertion triggering asthma attacks.
It can help to choose types of exercise that don’t cause asthma symptoms, or to seek medical advice about using a reliever inhaler to help keep asthma under control.
What types of exercise are best for people with asthma?
Activities that involve short, intermittent periods of exertion such as volleyball, gymnastics, and cricket are generally well tolerated by people with symptoms of asthma.
Activities that involve long periods of exertion, such as football, distance running, rugby, and basketball may be less well tolerated. Also less well tolerated are cold weather sports such as cross-country skiing and ice-skating. However, many people with asthma are able to fully participate in these activities.
Swimming, which is a strong endurance sport, is generally well tolerated by many people with asthma because it is usually performed in a warm, moist air environment. It is also an excellent activity for maintaining physical fitness.
Other beneficial activities for people with asthma include both outdoor and indoor cycling, aerobics, walking, and running on a treadmill.
How much exercise should I do if I have asthma?
Ideally, whether you have asthma or not, exercise should be performed at least five times a week for at least 30 minutes. Talk to your doctor or asthma nurse to find out how much exercise you should do.
What should I do to control my asthma when I exercise?
- Always use your pre-exercise asthma inhalers (inhaled bronchodilators) before beginning exercise.
- Perform warm-up exercises and maintain an appropriate cool-down period after exercise.
- If the weather is cold, exercise indoors or wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth.
- If you have allergic asthma, avoid exercising outdoors when pollen counts are high or when air pollution levels are high.
- Restrict exercise when you have a viral infection, like a cold.
- Exercise at a level that is appropriate for you.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is important for both physical and mental health.
Remember: asthma is not a reason to avoid exercise. With correct asthma diagnosis and the most effective asthma treatment, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of an exercise programme without experiencing asthma symptoms.
If you have any questions, talk to your doctor or asthma nurse.
What do I do if I have an asthma attack while exercising?
If you begin to experience asthma symptoms during exercise, stop and repeat your pre-exercise inhaled medication (inhaled bronchodilators). If your symptoms go away completely you may restart the exercise, provided your personal asthma plan says this is OK. If your symptoms return, stop the activity, repeat your quick relief medication, and seek medical advice.