How To Stay Active When You Have Asthma

Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs, causing wheezing, breathlessness, and chest tightness (via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). During an asthma attack, the walls of the airways in your lungs swell, and the airways themselves shrink and become clogged with mucus, leaving less space for air to get in and out.


According to the CDC, an asthma attack can be triggered by sinus infections, allergies, inhaling chemicals or strong fragrances, and even acid reflux. Physical exercise may also trigger an attack in some asthmatics.

But having asthma doesn't mean you can't also be physically fit. In fact, it's actually better to maintain a fitness routine as a method of controlling your asthma symptoms. Research published in a July 2015 issue of BMJ Journal surveyed 643 asthmatic adults and found that those who engaged in frequent physical activity had better symptom control than those who weren't physically active. Here is some advice on how to stay active when you have asthma.

Exercises that are safe for people with asthma

Moderate activities that are gentle on the lungs, such as yoga, archery, and Pilates, can help you stay fit without triggering asthma attacks (via Patient). For those who have created a customized asthma action plan with their doctor first, Dr. Henry Kanarek, who specializes in allergies, asthma, and immunology, recommends even more intense activities. He told Aaptiv, "Swimming, jogging, or riding a bike are all great options for those with asthma."


To avoid exercise-induced asthma, asthmatics should devote time to warming up before workouts and cooling down after, have a rescue inhaler on hand, and know their triggers and fitness abilities (via Aaptiv). Incorporating breathing exercises into a regular fitness regimen can also be beneficial to asthmatics by improving lung function (via Healthline). There are various breathing methods to experiment with, including equal breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and pursed lip breathing. 

Although there are plenty of options for people with asthma to stay physically fit, there are still activities that can cause existing asthma symptoms to worsen.

Exercises to avoid when you have asthma

According to, asthmatics should note that allergens and irritants that come with bad air quality can aggravate asthma symptoms when exercising outdoors. If working out indoors is not possible or preferable, exercising during early morning hours when pollution levels are lowest or tracking the air quality before going out is recommended.


Dr. Joi Lucas, medical director of pulmonology at Lakeland Regional Hospital, told Insider that asthmatics should also avoid high-intensity exercises that last longer than five to eight minutes in cold or dry air. These include long-distance running, cycling, ice hockey, and skiing. According to Lucas, you will know immediately if your activity is triggering symptoms because "exercise-induced asthma is typically seen after two to 10 minutes of heavy exercise."

So, it is very possible for you to stay physically active when you have asthma. Reap the most benefits of physical exercise by consulting with your doctor to come up with a workout routine tailored to you.