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Exercising with Asthma

My Fitness World: Exercising with Asthma

Thursday, May 19

Exercising with Asthma

Exercising With Asthma

Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Working out isn't off-limits for people with asthma — in fact, it's recommended. But it requires a little extra effort to prevent an asthma attack.

Exercise benefits everyone, and it’s no different for people with asthma. Though you may be afraid to exercise for fear of an asthma attack, you can — and should — be physically active. You just need to take a few precautions and understand how to use exercise to improve your asthma, not make it worse.
Exercising with asthma
A sedentary lifestyle isn't recommended for asthma patients. There are numerous health benefits to exercising with asthma "It's important for people with asthma to exercise as much as they can, to stay fit, and to control their weight," says Norman H. Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. "Excess weight makes asthma worse."
Exercising With Asthma: Getting Started
Get the go-ahead before you start exercising:
  • First, consult with your doctor, who will help you put together a safe exercise routine that gradually increases the intensity of your workout and your stamina, along with suggestions for controlling asthma. "Many people with asthma have what we call an EIB, or ‘exercise induced bronchospasm attack,’ at the end of exercise," Dr. Edelman says. But those attacks can be controlled. "Many doctors recommend using a quick-release inhaler before you start exercise," says Edelman, so work with your doctor to come up with a plan before you begin exercising.
  • Second, be sure you have good control over your asthma symptoms. Your doctor can help you determine if it's safe for you to begin exercising and find better methods of controlling asthma, so that you can exercise and be active without experiencing an asthma attack.
One Step at a Time
No exercise is strictly off-limits for asthma patients. The right fitness program for you depends on your level of physical fitness, your asthma symptom control, and what you like to do.

Kim Kostenko, 28, from Alexandria, Va., was diagnosed with severe asthma at the age of 12, but that hasn't stopped her from living a very active lifestyle. Kostenko was a runner for many years, and even joined the cross-country team in college.
"I've always been very active," says Kostenko. "To do that, I just have to be very careful. The thing with asthma is you can get to a point where you can exercise pretty regularly. But if I get a bad cold and it gets in to my lungs, it puts me back at square one. I have to start over and work my way back up."
Though it's a continuous struggle, a fit, healthy, and active lifestyle is definitely worth it. Kostenko uses her rescue inhaler before exercising to help prevent an asthma attack and a daily preventive medication to keep asthma symptoms under control and make exercise a little easier.
Kostenko suggests looking for activities that aren't too hard on your lungs. Good choices to try include:
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Biking
Guidelines to Get You Going
These safety precautions can make exercising with asthma safer and more enjoyable:
  • As a general rule, try exercising indoors instead of outdoors.
  • Don't exercise in very cold weather. If you must, cover your mouth with a scarf.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors in weather that is very humid or during allergy season.
  • Do your best not to get sick, as an illness in the lungs can quickly deplete your stamina.
  • Always start your activity with warm-up exercises.
  • Lift weights to develop better muscle tone.
  • Exercise at your own pace rather than taking a group class.
Exercising and staying fit with asthma can be a challenge, but it's certainly possible — and a great thing to do for your health.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Asthma Cente

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