This website has moved to a new location. Please visit our sister website healthexpress.co.uk for next day delivery.
  • Prescription included
  • Genuine medication
  • All-inclusive service - No hidden fees
  • Free next-day delivery
Home / Asthma / A guide to exercise-induced asthma

A guide to exercise-induced asthma

How to manage your asthma symptoms during exercise

While regular exercise is important for your overall fitness and lung health, physical activity can be difficult for asthma sufferers.

Exercise-induced asthma happens when your asthma symptoms are triggered during exercise. Exercise is meant to leave you feeling out of breath. But you shouldn’t be wheezing, coughing or reaching for your inhaler.

Keep reading to find out why exercise can trigger asthma as well as ways of controlling your symptoms. With the right preventative measures, you can continue to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What is exercise-induced asthma?

Exercise-induced asthma refers to a flare-up of asthma symptoms during exercise or tasks that are physically demanding.

Woman feeling breathless on a run

Symptoms can come into effect within minutes of physical exertion. Or, you might feel the effects up to 15 minutes after your workout is complete.

This condition can also be referred to as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). This avoids any confusion that exercise itself causes asthma. In this instance, exercise is a trigger.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of EIB vary from person to person. But are most common symptoms include:

  • frequently stopping exercise so that you can catch your breath
  • feeling that you need to use your reliever inhaler
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe)
  • long periods of coughing fits
  • tightness in your chest making it difficult to take in deep breaths

If you experience these symptoms during exercise, you should stop what you’re doing and use your blue (reliever) inhaler.

How does exercise worsen asthma symptoms?

When you start exercising your muscles need more oxygen. To achieve this, you start to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose.

By breathing in through your mouth, you breathe in air that's colder and drier than normal. This can irritate your airways.

An infographic showing the narrowing of airways

For asthma sufferers, this irritation causes the airways to become narrower, leading to breathlessness, coughing and wheezing. This is more likely to occur during intense activity.

Exercising outdoors may also trigger your asthma if there are high levels of pollution or pollen in the air, as these are also irritants.

Is it safe to exercise with asthma?

It is perfectly safe to exercise as someone who is asthmatic if you take preventative measures and only do certain exercises.

Regular exercise can be beneficial for asthma sufferers. Cardio, strength training and the use of your lungs can help increase your lung capacity. This increases the amount of oxygen you can breathe in - improving asthma symptoms in the long term.

Exercise is also beneficial for improving circulation, heart health and weight loss. The good news is that doesn’t need to be avoided if you have asthma.

How can I prevent exercise-induced asthma?

If you get asthma flare-ups during exercise, ensure that you are using your asthma medication. This includes using your preventative (brown) inhaler daily, or as much as your doctor has told you to do so.

Asthma must be properly treated. That way, you’re more likely to stay in control of your symptoms and avoid emergencies such as asthma attacks.

Woman covering her nose and mouth with a scarf in cold weather

As well as taking your prescribed medication, the following steps can make exercising with asthma easier:

  • warm up with gentle exercise for about 15 minutes before starting more vigorous physical activity
  • try breathing through your nose rather than your mouth
  • cover your mouth and nose with a scarf if you’re exercising outdoors during cold weather
  • take over-the-counter antihistamines if the pollen count is high and you have seasonal allergies

Can breathing exercises improve symptoms?

Different types of breathing can also help to manage wheeziness and any shortness of breath. Before you start to exercise, you might consider trying any of the following breathing exercises:

  • Pursed-lip breathing: Inhale through your nose and hold your breath for a couple of seconds. Proceed to slowly exhale through your mouth (purse your lips like you’re blowing out a candle). Repeat as many times as you like.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing: Breathe in as deeply as you can, so that your stomach raises upon inhale. Hold your breath and then slowly exhale. Aim to do 10 of these long breaths.
  • Buteyko breathing: Exhale the air from your lungs and hold your breath (pinch your nose with your thumb and forefinger). Keep hold of your breath until you feel the urge to inhale again. Breathe normally for 10 seconds and then repeat.

What kinds of exercise are best?

The following exercises may cause less breathing difficulties if you struggle with exercise-induced asthma:

  • indoor exercises where the air is warmer and more humid
  • team sports (football, hockey, netball) that involve short bursts of exercise rather than continuous activity
  • less strenuous exercise such as walking or hiking
  • indoor swimming (where the air is humid and warm)
An infographic showing dos and don’ts for exercising with asthma

If possible, try and avoid vigorous activities such as:

  • running
  • sprinting
  • interval training
  • outdoor activities (especially during the winter months)

Main takeaways

By taking extra precautions, you can safely exercise on a regular basis without struggling with asthma symptoms.

Remember the following:

Managing exercise-induced asthma
Regularly use your preventative inhaler and bring your reliever inhaler just in case. icon-asthama-inhaler
Warm up for 15 minutes before doing more intense exercise. icon-human-exercise
Choose less strenuous exercise (like walking and hiking over running). icon-human-legs
Exercise indoors where the air is warmer and more humid. icon-human-swim
Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf if you choose to exercise outdoors. icon-human-scarf

At euroClinix, we sell a variety of different asthma inhalers. Prices include a free consultation with one of our registered doctors, as well as free delivery.

Want to learn more about asthma?

Click here
Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 03-01-2024
Asthma

Our service - only on euroClinix
  • Private & confidential serviceDiscreet packaging and encrypted data
  • Genuine & branded medicationFrom UK registered pharmacies
  • No doctor visit neededOur doctors assess you online
  • Free next day deliveryOrder by 4:30 to receive tomorrow
View Treatments

Further reading

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho
How to diagnose asthma

How to diagnose asthma

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
What to do during an asthma attack without your inhaler

What to do during an asthma attack without your inhaler

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Unmasking asthma triggers: what causes flare-ups

Unmasking asthma triggers: what causes flare-ups

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
A guide to asthma inhalers & treatments

A guide to asthma inhalers & treatments

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Asthma symptoms: what to expect and how they vary

Asthma symptoms: what to expect and how they vary

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
How hay fever can trigger your asthma

How hay fever can trigger your asthma

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
How to live with asthma

How to live with asthma

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
What are the Risk Factors of Asthma Attacks?

What are the Risk Factors of Asthma Attacks?

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
What is the difference between blue and brown inhalers?

What is the difference between blue and brown inhalers?

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
During An Asthma Attack

During An Asthma Attack

Reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho
More articles
  • Select
    medication

  • Fill out a short
    medical form

  • Doctor issues
    prescription

  • Medication sent
    from pharmacy