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Exercise & asthma

Asthma affects every aspect of a person's life, in particular the ability to exercise. Yet regular physical exercise increases your fitness level, makes you feel better, and improves your self-esteem and confidence. This is particularly true in children. With proper detection and control of your asthma you can have an active lifestyle. Determining the correct medication and taking it appropriately are fundamental to maintaining control of asthma and will help enable you to live your life to the fullest.

Control your asthma first

Over the past several years asthma medications have been developed that can provide long-term control of the illness, as well as alleviate intermittent asthma attacks. One of the most effective is the inhaled corticosteroid, budesonide (Pulmicort®), used for treating inflammation of the airways, and the long-term management of asthma. Recently, a new medication for the control and treatment of asthma, called Symbicort®, which contains budesonide together with the fast and long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilator formoterol, was approved by Health Canada. It is indicated for regular maintenance treatment of asthma.

The combination of these 2 asthma medications in one inhaler allows for easier and more effective management of periodic asthma fluctuations. Essentially, the formoterol acts quickly to control asthma symptoms, while budesonide provides long-term control of airway inflammation. Symbicort® has the feature of flexible dosing, a unique property of this combination therapy.

The use of Symbicort® by patients with asthma has been clinically proven in several studies to improve lung function to the degree that it reduced the risk of having an asthma attack by nearly 40%. Additionally, study investigators have found that this combination therapy provided study participants with the equivalent of 60 days free of day or night symptoms, night awakenings, and rescue medication use compared to those who received budesonide (Pulmicort®) alone.

If your asthma is poorly controlled and you feel you could benefit from a change in asthma medication, consult your doctor. However, if your asthma is already well controlled, you may not need to change your medication.

Common sense tips for exercising

If you have not exercised in some time you should start slowly and gradually increase the duration or intensity of your exercise routine.

Warm up is an essential part of exercise, regardless of whether you're planning on cycling, swimming, or mountain climbing. Typically, 10 to 15 minutes of stretching exercises before you begin physical activity will help your body more easily adjust to the increased physical requirements.

Cool down is also important, and should be done 10 to 30 minutes after you exercise. Stretching or walking works well.

Avoid exercising in cold, dry, or dusty air, or placing yourself in situations that may trigger an asthma attack. And remember - take your medication with you.


67 of the 597 U.S. athletes who participated in the 1984 Olympics suffered from asthma. These athletes won 41 medals: 15 gold, 20 silver, and 6 bronze. They did it by taking care of their asthma - long-term management - taking their medications as prescribed.

Claire Sowerbutt, medical writer 
in association with the MediResource Clinical Team


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