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. One of the most effective is inhaled corticosteroids used for treating inflammation of the airways and for long-term management of asthma.

Combinations of steroids with long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) bronchodilators are also available 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 beta-agonist acts quickly to control asthma symptoms, while the steroid provides long-term control of airway inflammation.

Medications for exercise-induced asthma

The first agent of choice in preventing exercise-induced asthma is short-acting inhaled beta-agonists (SABAs). They are used 5 to 10 minutes before exercise. They can also quickly alleviate the symptoms of asthma and are used as needed to open the airways.

A combination of an inhaled corticosteroids and a LABA can also be used to prevent exercised-induced asthma. The combination inhalers are usually used for regular maintenance, but it may also be used prior to strenuous activity.

There are also oral medications available to prevent exercise-induced asthma. Leukotriene modifiers work by blocking leukotriene receptors, thereby blocking the chemicals that are responsible for inflammation from binding to the receptor.

Commonsense tips for exercising

If you have not exercised in some time, you should start slowly and gradually increase the duration and/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 putting 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.