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Asthma and Exercise – The Benefits Outweigh the Risks

The benefits of regular exercise almost always outweigh the risks associated with exercise-induced asthma.

May 5th is World Asthma Day

As a BCRPA certified personal trainer and an Infofit rehabilitation specialist, a common health issue I deal with is exercise-induced asthma. Exercise-induced asthma is a condition when the airways become sensitive from temperature and humidity changes when breathing in cold, dry air through the mouth. Air that passes through the mouth bypasses the nose, which normally humidifies and warms the air prior to its reaching the lungs. Cold, dry air irritates hypersensitive lungs that have become inflamed thus causing the bronchial tubes to spasm. The muscles surrounding the irritated bronchial tubes tighten and narrow which makes breathing difficult. When having an asthma attack there is also an increase of mucus in the lungs further limiting breathing and resulting in wheezing, coughing or tightness in the chest.

Working Out Plays a Part in Reducing the Frequency and Severity of Attacks

It’s important to note that the benefits of regular exercise almost always outweigh the risks associated with exercise-induced asthma. Benefits include improved function of the heart and lungs, increased strength and endurance for the muscles of the ribcage and better ability to expand the lungs due to improved posture and flexibility. Working out also help us to relax which plays a part in reducing the frequency and severity of attacks.

Prior to starting any exercise program ensure you have checked with your physician and receive medical clearance. When you speak with your physician get a doctor’s note as fitness facilities and your certified personal trainer will require that you have written consent. Be sure to hire a certified personal trainer who has experience dealing with respiratory ailments – not all personal trainers have taken continuing education courses for asthma.

Take your medication before starting to exercise, if advised. Your physician will give you specific directions as to how many puffs and how long before an exercise session to use your inhaler. Bring your emergency inhaler to the gym with you always and ensure your trainer is aware of where it is kept.

Warm up at least 10 minutes before starting your program, start slowly and then gradually increase the intensity. Should symptoms begin, stop immediately and take your bronchodilator (your corticosteroid inhaler will not help at this point) – ensure you have the correct inhaler with you.

Exercise is a Powerful Tool

During the winter stay indoors when exercising. If you choose to exercise outdoors, discuss with your physician the safety factors including keeping your mouth and nose covered. Due to pollution and pollen spring is also a time when it may be prudent to exercise indoors.

Exercise is a powerful tool to those suffering due to the positive effects from increased strength and flexibility. However proper medical clearance and a qualified certified personal trainer can make the experience a healthy, happy and positive one!


1) Asthma Society of Canada –

2 Allergic Living Magazine ; Article Cold Air, Exercise and Asthma

Cathie Glennon, BCRPA Registered Personal Trainer, BCRPA SFL