Exercise is still possible with asthma

| June 25, 2010 | 0 Comments

Lisa Young
U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional)

Shinobu Yagi-Robinson, Zumba instructor, leads a popular aerobics class at the Health and Fitness Center on Schofield Barracks. People exercising with asthma should consult their physician before joining an aerobics class and monitor their reactions to the exercise. (Lacey Justinger | U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Asthma is a disease that affects the airways of the lungs, and exercise-induced asthma, or EIA, is acute airway narrowing or constriction either during or after exercise. 

With asthma, the airways and bronchial tubes are extra sensitive to triggers that cause them to swell and the muscles around them to tighten, making it hard for air to pass through the airways. A trigger does not cause a person to be asthmatic, rather a trigger is something that sets off an asthma attack.

One of the things that can trigger an asthma episode is exercise. These asthma attacks generally peak in severity about five to 10 minutes after starting to exercise, and can continue for 20 to 30 minutes. 

Symptoms of EIA include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest.

The causes of EIA are not clearly understood, but are possibly due to changes in airway temperature, changes in airway dryness and congestion of the bronchial arteries. Breathing cold, dry air, like air conditioning, tends to make an asthma episode worse.

A person with EIA should continue to exercise as much as can be enjoyably managed, but under a physician’s guidance. 

It is important to take asthma medication before exercising, do warm-up and cool-down exercises, and don’t push to exercise at too high an intensity level. 

Some exercise activities that are good to try are those that consist of only short bursts of energy with periods of rest in between, such as swimming, walking, golf, slow biking and baseball. 

It is best to avoid sports that require constant, heavy physical activity like long-distance running, aerobics, basketball, hockey and soccer.

Certain medications are tremendously helpful in managing asthma that is triggered by exercise. 

A physician may prescribe a short-acting bronchodilator to take puffs of before and during exercise, as well as the use of long-acting reliever medicines. 

The better asthma is controlled, the less EIA will be a problem.

Although EIA is frequently diagnosed in children, it is not unusual in adults. 

Adults who exercise frequently at intense levels are also susceptible to other asthma triggers, such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, strong odors, allergens and occupational sources.

There are strategies that can reduce the incidence of an exercise-induced asthma attack, so exercise regularly and follow these “Do’s” and “Don’ts:”



  • Check with a doctor before starting a new or more advanced exercise program.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise.
  • Use a bronchodilator before exercise or if asthma symptoms are noticed during exercise.
  • Try to exercise indoors where the air is warmer and there are fewer triggers.
  • Breathe in slowly through the nose to warm and moisten air.




  • Exercise when feeling tired or sick.
  • Suddenly start and stop exercising – be sure to warm up and cool down adequately.
  • Forget to monitor breathing to see how exercise is affecting asthma.
  • Exercise on busy streets where air pollution is higher.
  • Exercise on hot, humid days when ozone levels are high.

Additional information about exercise-induced asthma is available at:


Category: Community

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *