What Causes Wheezing During Exercise?

Exercise is challenging enough on its own without having to wheeze your way through your workout routine. If you regularly wheeze when exercising, it's time to talk to your doctor, because difficulty breathing can indicate a wide variety of health conditions. Also, by slowly building up to a more intense workout, you may be able to avoid wheezing altogether.

If you start wheezing when you exercise, it's time to take a break. Credit: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Increased Rate of Respiration

When you exercise -- particularly when you're doing aerobic routines such as running and jumping -- your heart rate increases to ensure that your muscles and organs get sufficient blood and oxygen. As your heart rate increases, so does your rate of respiration because your lungs have to ensure your blood is properly oxygenated. For exercise novices, this sensation can be uncomfortable and jarring, and if you have another health condition, you might end up wheezing your way through your workout.

Asthma and Allergies

Asthma causes inflammation in the airways, and this can make them narrower, making breathing more challenging. Similarly, some allergies can cause your throat, sinuses or lungs to become irritated, making it more difficult to breathe and causing wheezing. People with these conditions can struggle with any type of exercise, but outdoor exercise is more likely to result in exposure to allergens, increasing your risk of wheezing if you have allergies.

Colds and Infections

A wide variety of temporary health conditions can interfere with your breathing when you exercise. Sinus infections can make it more challenging to breathe correctly, while infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia can interfere with lung function and shrink your airways. If you only experience wheezing when you're sick, simply take a few days off of your routine until you feel better.

Chronic Conditions

Some chronic conditions like acid reflux irritate the throat and airways and can cause you to wheeze as your rate of respiration increases. Occasionally, wheezing can indicate a serious medical condition such as a growth or tumor in your throat or lungs. Problems with your vocal chords -- including growths and abnormal motion -- can also lead to wheezing. If your wheezing is an ongoing problem, ask your doctor to test you for conditions that can cause wheezing.

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