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Asthma And Exercise: Everything You Need To Know

Dr. Mujahid Israr

2 min read

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Asthma is no joyride. The excruciating pain and exhaustive nature of asthma attacks often induces a fear of exercising to the point of avoidance, while for some it serves as the perfect excuse to bypass any form of physical exertion. However, it has been proven time and again and confirmed by top pulmonologist in Karachi, lahore and Islamabad that with the right precautions and proper management, asthma does not interfere with one’s choice of exercise.

A Note for Beginners:

Those unaccustomed to exercise or resuming workouts after a long break can acclimatize themselves to a daily exercise routine through incorporating mild-to-moderate physical exertion in small daily activities. Also, while any form of exercise is a positive step towards long-term asthma improvement, a routine with a mix of different exercise forms, such as moderate and high intensity aerobic exercise, strength training and mind-body exercises, is recommended for optimum asthmatic and overall health.

Top Exercise Picks:

While activities that involve short, intermittent periods of exertion are preferred over activities involving long exertion periods, a large number of people with asthma can partake in any activity of their choice. Some of the best physical activities for asthmatics include:


This low-intensity aerobic exercise is simple to maintain due to its easy incorporation into daily activities such as walking home from work, taking regular, brisk strolls around the neighborhood, etc. This makes walking the perfect exercise for beginners. The continuous activity and resultant heavy breathing during long-distance running, on the other hand, may trigger an asthma attack. Similarly, speed cycling and mountain biking should also be done with care due to the instant drying of airways.


Not only does the inhaled warm and humid air help evade asthma, but regular swimming can also aid in asthma improvement by loosening the mucus accumulated in the lungs, making it highly recommended for people with Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA). However, avoid swimming if you can clearly smell the chlorine, as it may trigger an attack.

3-Team Sports:

Stop-and-Start sports like cricket, netball, and baseball allow players to rest for longer intervals in between short spurts of moderate-to-intense activity. This reduces the likelihood of an asthma attack, hence making them more suitable for EIA and asthmatics in general. Conversely, the constant motion required while playing football and basketball may be too much to handle for the weakened lungs of some asthmatics. However, a few weeks of interval training prior to a game can help reduce the chances.

4-Racquet Sports:

The overall leisurely layout of sports like tennis, badminton, squash and table tennis gives players control over their pace to some extent, while also allowing them to rest between games following short burst of activity. These activity spurts can be further reduced by playing doubles.

5-Mind-body Exercises:

In addition to improving flexibility, agility, and balance, regular yoga, Pilates and/or t’ai chi sessions help with reducing medication dosage and overall asthma improvement by activating different areas of the lungs as a result of regulated breathing exercises.


Least likely to induce an attack, the sport engages the mind and body, but allows players to rest and play at their leisure. Golfing incorporates concentration, arm exercise, and walking. However, its outdoor nature may require those with pollen and dust allergies to take special care.

Tips for Asthma Control:

  • Always keep your inhaler and other medications (if any) with you.
  • Use your reliever inhaler at least 30 minutes prior to exercising to prevent an AIE episode.
  • Serious athletes should warm up with light exertion exercises before playing to reduce in-game symptoms.
  • Stop exercising and take your reliever inhaler immediately to keep the symptoms from worsening if an attack occurs mid-exercise.
  • Wear a face mask on high pollen and pollution days, and a warm scarf over your nose and mouth during cold days to trap warm air.
  • If you observe any signs of an asthma attack mid-activity, like coughing, wheezing, gasping for air, chest pain and/or tightness, and trouble speaking in short sentences, stop exercising and take your reliever inhaler immediately.
  • Call urgently for medical aid if symptoms continue to worsen despite using a reliever.

Lack of cardiovascular activity can worsen asthma, so instead of avoiding exercise, simply draft an emergency action plan with your doctor and take the necessary precautions.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Mujahid Israr
Dr. Mujahid Israr - Author Assist. Prof. Dr. Mujahid Israr is a Internal Medicine Specialist practicing in Lahore. He has MBBS, FCPS (Medicine), MACG (USA), and FCPS (Gastroenterology) degrees coupled with 13 years of experience. You can book an appointment with him through oladoc.

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