How To Exercise With Asthma

How To Exercise With Asthma by Charles Sledge

This is Luke Douglas’s weekly health column. Luke runs the blog Ripped.me where he writes about training equipment, nutrtion, and fitness. Each week Luke is going to write about a new subject in the fitness field. This week Luke talks about how one should exercise with asthma. Enjoy.

Suffering from a lifelong, chronic condition such as asthma is no cakewalk, even without strenuous physical activity involved, let alone when you strive to work up your muscle gains or run a marathon. But despite what many people will tell you, asthma does not have to be a deal-breaker for your regular workouts. Unless you’re just looking for an excuse not to put in work, that is.

For those who are new to the fitness world and have to factor in asthma attacks as a possibility, here are a few strategies to keep you going and lower your risk of asthma-related breathing difficulties during workouts.

Never skip your warmups and cooldowns

Sure, you’re eager to stack those weights on the barbell or go into full-force combat mode in your martial arts class, but unless you start steady and work up your heart rate while controlling your breath, you’re likely going to end up wheezing and gasping for air, potentially in the emergency room. Warmups serve to help you prepare your body for the upcoming strain and build up your endurance. Your lungs in particular will need some time to adapt, so start slow and keep your inhaler close.

Cooldowns, on the other hand, are essential to slowly help your body recover, slow down your heart rate, lower your body temperature back to normal, and regain control of your breathing. That way, when you walk out of the door, you’re less likely to get dizzy, suffer from shortness of breath or experience other symptoms of asthma.

Pick your fitness battle

Unlike your standard allergy-induced asthma whose severity and frequency can depend on many factors, exercise-induced asthma is strictly related to the type of exercise you can perform. Most exercise-related symptoms are seen in runners, cyclists, basketball and soccer players, which means that these cardio-intense lengthy workouts can be more difficult on some asthma patients, especially without proper preparation.

On the other hand, swimming, weight-lifting, yoga and all kinds of martial arts can be easier on your lungs due to frequent and controlled breaks, controlled breathing exercises and the option to keep at a steady pace. This is by no means a cookie-cutter solution that fits all, on the contrary. You can run marathons with asthma and if David Beckham can have a pro career in soccer, then what’s to stop you from recreational endurance endeavors when you keep everything under control?

Keep your environment under control

Allergic to pollen? Then don’t play football or run in the middle of a meadow, go to an actual field or a track. Choose a workout environment that is least likely to trigger an attack, because it can happen even in perfectly controlled circumstances, so why put yourself at greater risk. Make sure you know your enemy, so that you can keep your exposure under control, especially during allergy season.

This means keeping your house spotless, using high-quality air purifiers to keep your indoor air clean, and tailoring a diet with fewer inflammatory foods and more immunity-boosting bites. If you can exercise in a space that is also irritant and pollutant-free, you will put less stress on your lungs, letting them become stronger through exercise, and increasing your tolerance levels to your triggers.

Prevention with the right medication

There are so many types of antihistamines nowadays that it makes no sense to go through the ordeal of sleepless nights, wheezing, coughing and constant mucus production, which will not just interfere with your training, but your everyday life as well. Consult your physician for advice and guidance on the right type of medication and dosages for the most effective treatment, and you’ll quickly feel the difference even when you exercise.

The right type of inhaler and a well-defined routine on when to use it will also help you maintain and grow your physical endurance. Some asthma patients find it helpful to use one dosage of their inhaler prior to their workout as a precaution, but that can in time become redundant because your lungs will become stronger and more resilient.

But most importantly, listen to your body especially during your more strenuous workouts, because pushing yourself a step too far can cause a severe asthma attack that will hinder your progress and prevent you from training for a certain period of time. Keep track of your progress, and always give yourself enough time to adapt, and you’ll enjoy an active life with your asthma under control.

If you have any questions you would like to see answered in a future post send them to me at charlessledge001 (at) gmail (dot) com. If you found value in this post then I would encourage you to share this site with someone who may need it as well as check out my books here. I appreciate it.

-Charles Sledge

Charles Sledge

  • I have asthma and can confirm it sucks but conscious breathing helped me tremendously hence as you said, swimming and the likes where you have to do that is easier on me than running/sprinting. Good piece never thought I’d read something about that condition on your blog mate.

    • Hey no problem and it was Luke Douglas who wrote it not me. Don’t have much experience with asthma. I know that diet has a huge impact on it though. Had family with asthma that just about all cleared up after diet was changed.

    • Luke Douglas

      Thank you man. I’m glad you like it.