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Bronchitis & Exercise

by |
author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
Bronchitis & Exercise
Bronchitis can make exercise difficult. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

The airway branches in your lungs are known as bronchioles. When the bronchioles become inflamed due to a viral or bacterial infection, the condition is known as bronchitis. Bronchitis is a breathing condition that causes symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue, fever or wheezing as you breathe. Because bronchitis affects your ability to breathe comfortably, maintaining an active lifestyle while you are sick may affect your standard exercise routine.

Immediately After Diagnosis

When you have first been diagnosed with bronchitis, you likely will not feel like exercising. At this time, resting, drinking plenty of fluids and using a humidifier to clear the lungs can help to reduce pressure on the lungs and help you feel better. If your bronchitis is the result of a bacterial infection, taking antibiotics can help your symptoms ease with time. However, most bronchitis cases are viral, which means you do not need to take medications to treat the cause. When you feel your strength start to return, you may find you are better able to exercise.

Returning to Exercise

Because bronchitis may take several days to weeks to heal, you can resume exercise when you begin to feel better and can breathe with less difficulty. While exercise should not worsen your bronchitis symptoms, you may not be able to perform vigorous exercises like running or high-impact aerobics. Instead, start with lower-impact exercises like walking, using an elliptical machine or swimming that do not place excess strain on the lungs. Wipe down all exercise equipment with an antibacterial cloth to remove germs from exercise equipment.

Chronic Bronchitis

If your bronchitis does not subside with time, you can develop a condition known as chronic bronchitis. This refers to inflammation of the airways that can affect your ability to breathe long term. Smokers commonly experience this condition. If you experience chronic bronchitis, you may need to seek the advice of a respiratory therapist, who can instruct you on breathing techniques to utilize while exercising to open your airways. Because chronic bronchitis can damage your lungs, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and to practice breathing techniques when exercising to minimize damage.

Warning Signs

If you exercise with bronchitis, there are a few warning signs you should look out for. They include coughing that is hard to stop, inability to catch your breath or coughing up blood or thick, green mucus. If you experience these symptoms, wait to exercise until your condition has more sufficiently healed.


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