4 Great Exercises For Asthma


Kelli Miller

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Exercise is always touted as the key to a vibrant, healthy life. But if you have asthma, working out can be a challenge. Researchers have long known that strenuous physical activity can make asthma symptoms, like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath, worse. In fact, some people only have symptoms when they exercise. This condition is called exercise-induced asthma. The key is to keep your asthma under control and your inhaler close at hand. And certain exercises are ideal for people with asthma. 

  • 1.

    Dive in to water.

    Water exercise is great for people with asthma. Try swimming a few laps or join a water aerobics class at a local gym. Swimming helps build upper body muscles, including those used to breathe. Exercising in the water is also a lot gentler on the joints than other activities.

  • 2.

    Strike a new yoga pose.

    Yoga is a great way to tone the body while helping you become more aware of your breathing. Certain poses, like the Bridge and Cobra, open the chest area, increasing flexibility and strengthening the muscles around the lungs. Research shows regularly doing yoga breathing techniques, called pranayamas, improves lung function in healthy adults. Some studies hint it may help those with mild to moderate asthma, too.  

    Woman in Warrior Yoga Pose
  • 3.

    Go for a simple stroll.

    Walking may seem tame when it comes to workouts, but it is one of the best activities to help get – and keep you -- in shape. And as a bonus, it also helps improve your lung capacity. Aim for a 30-minute walk about five days a week. 

    A few tips: Use your inhaler before you head out. Skip the stroll on bad air quality days. Check your local weather forecast –they usually offer a free air quality alert. And if it's cold out, wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth so you can bring in warm, moist air and prevent an asthma attack.

    Romantic Couple Walking Through Autumn Woodland
  • 4.

    Join a team – on your field of dreams.

    Activities that require constant running up and down the field or court – like soccer or basketball – can be difficult if you have asthma. Instead, opt for sports that require short bursts of energy with periods of rest in between.  For example, choose short-distance running challenges instead of longer ones. Two others worth a shot? Baseball and football. 

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Dec 20, 2017

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Medical References

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  2. Saxena, T. The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity. International Journal of Yoga. January – June 2009; Vol. 2(1): pp. 22–25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017963
  3. Abel, AN. The effects of regular yoga practice on pulmonary function in healthy individuals: a literature review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. March 2013; Vol. 19(3): pp. 185-90. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22978245
  4. Breath of Fresh Air. Brigham and Women's Hospital: Partners Healthcare. http://www.asthma.partners.org/NewFiles/BoFAChapter4.html
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