Best Exercises for Asthma: Yoga, Swimming, Biking, and Walking

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What are Best Exercises for Asthma?

If you're like most people with asthma, you may sometimes experience symptoms -- coughing, wheezing and tightness in your chest -- during or after exercising. But that's no excuse not to work out . You just need to be prepared and know your limits.

"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 air, dry air, pollen, 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. But once you start exercising, you forget how you are breathing. Being out of shape is another important cause of asthma symptoms during exercise," says Taliercio.

It is better to pick an exercise that is not too difficult for you. Try to do the exercise you have chosen four or five days a week. Don't push yourself to do an exercise that you are not in shape for.

"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.