Best Exercises for Asthma: Yoga, Swimming, Biking (cont.)

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Best and worst exercises for asthma

Swimming is one of the best exercises for asthma because it builds up the muscles you use for breathing. It also exposes your lungs to lots of warm, moist air, which is less likely to trigger asthma symptoms. A comprehensive medical review (Cochrane Review) of eight studies of children and adolescents from 2013 showed that swimming increases lung function and cardiopulmonary fitness, without any serious side effects in patients with stable asthma.

Yoga is another good exercise for asthma. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that yoga training over 10 weeks significantly improved quality of life scores for women with mild to moderate asthma. "A low intensity beginner yoga class is a great way to start up your exercise program," says Taliercio.

Other potential physical activities for people with asthma include

No activity has to be off-limits just because you have asthma, but some sports are more likely to trigger asthma symptoms. These include cold-weather sports, like cross-country skiing, and ice hockey, and endurance sports, like soccer or long-distance running.

Before starting an exercise routine

"If you have not exercised for a while, talk to your doctor about how to get started safely," says Taliercio. This is especially important if you have asthma symptoms that flare up when you work out. Your doctor can help you find an exercise that's best for you and also make sure you are on the best medications for your asthma.

"I usually recommend a short-acting bronchodilator, (such as) albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil, Proventil-HFA, AccuNeb, Vospire, ProAir), about 15 minutes before starting exercise," says Taliercio. "(And) if it's really cold outside, or if there is a high level of air pollution, I tell my patients to exercise indoors. This also applies to patients with allergies if the pollen count is high."

Here are some good tips for exercising with asthma:

  • Warm up first.
  • Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible.
  • If you are exercising in cold weather, wear a scarf or mask over your nose and mouth.
  • If you have pollen allergies, avoid outdoor exercise when pollen counts are high.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors if air pollution is high.
  • Do not exercise when you are sick or not feeling well.
  • Include a cool-down routine after exercise.
  • Know your exercise limit, and don't push yourself too hard.
  • Always carry your inhaler, just in case you need it.

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle -- even when you have asthma. Aim to work out for about 30 minutes, four to five days a week. "Avoiding exercise when you have asthma is an old way of thinking," says Taliercio. "Now we know that letting yourself get out of shape is bad for asthma. Exercise for asthma should be part of your routine."


American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Asthma and Exercise: Tips to Remember."

American College of Sports Medicine: "Exercise-Induced Asthma."

Beggs, S., et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 4 Apr. 30, 2013

Bidwell, AJ. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, August, 2012.

Chandratilleke, MG. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, May, 2012.

Cleveland Clinic: "Exercise and Asthma."

Ohio State University Medical Center: "Asthma and Exercise."

Rachel Taliercio, DO, Cleveland Clinic.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/18/2016

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