Exercising With Asthma

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Exercise is a common trigger for asthma symptoms. Many people with asthma may experience coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness during or after exercising. However, most people with asthma can successfully participate in their exercise of choice with proper guidance.

"If your asthma is under good control, you can and should exercise normally. Exercising (when you have) asthma can help reduce your symptoms, improve your breathing, and reduce your stress and anxiety," says Rachel Taliercio, DO, a lung and allergy specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

"Many people with asthma assume that exercise is bad for them. That causes them to get out of shape, and that's bad for asthma," says Dr. Taliercio. A review of 19 studies (involving 695 people) on exercises for asthma was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2012. The review found that exercise for asthma is safe, improves heart and lung fitness, and enhances quality of life. The author's conclusion is that people with asthma should be encouraged to exercise without worrying that their symptoms will get worse.

Exercising safely

Having asthma means your lungs are more sensitive to things like cold or hot temperatures, dry air, allergens, and pollution. When you're not exercising, you probably breathe through your nose. Breathing through your nose moistens, warms, and filters the air you breathe before it gets into your lungs. But while working out, you probably breathe through your mouth. That can be tough on your lungs and can trigger asthma symptoms.

"We tell people with asthma to try to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth," says Taliercio.

It is better to pick an exercise that is not too difficult for you because trying an exercise that you are not in shape for may also trigger asthma symptoms. Try to do the exercise you have chosen four or five days a week. Don't push yourself if your asthma starts to flare. "The best exercise is (one) that causes you to be just slightly out of breath. If you can talk comfortably while you are exercising, your exercise level is not passing the talk test," says Taliercio. That means you may not be working hard enough to receive all the benefits of exercising.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/18/2016


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