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Does Exercise Help Asthma?

author image Kelli Cooper
Kelli Cooper has been a writer since 2009, specializing in health and fitness. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers University and is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise.
Does Exercise Help Asthma?
A fast-acting inhaler can help treat an attack triggered by exercise. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Exercise has many benefits when it comes to managing your asthma. While exercise can pose dangers, particularly if your asthma is uncontrolled, it is generally safe to exercise despite having asthma. Consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program; he may have specific recommendations and adjust your asthma medications to accommodate your increased physical activities.

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Regular physical activity increases the strength of your lungs, increasing oxygen intake and helping you breathe better all the time, not just during exercise. Aerobic exercise increases the functionality of the muscles involved in breathing. An exercise program helps you maintain a healthy weight, which may reduce asthma symptoms. Working out also strengthens your immune system.

Recommended Form of Exercise

Certain types of exercises are less likely to trigger an asthma attack. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, activities that involve long periods of continuous movement, such as running, are more likely trigger an attack than exercises with regular periods of “stop and go.” Swimming and walking are relatively safe activities for asthma suffers. The American Council on Exercise ranks the following five activities from most to least likely to cause an attack: running outdoors, running on a treadmill, cycling, walking and swimming in a pool.


If you plan on exercising with asthma, you should have a fast-acting inhaler readily available in case of an exercise-induced attack. Asthma medications relax your airways almost immediately or at most, in a few minutes, to relieve your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend that you use your inhaler before working out. She can also determine which medications and dosages that are appropriate for your condition.

Tips for Preventing an Attack

Exercising in cold air can increase your risk of an asthma attack. You should either wear a mask to warm the air as you breathe or avoid working out in the cold. Stay away from heavily polluted areas, such as the side of a heavily trafficked road. Dust, pollen and strong scents can trigger attacks; a dust mask may prevent exposure to irritants. Ease your body into and out of activity with a 10-minute warm-up and cool down; avoid abruptly starting and stopping your workout.

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