Exercise and Asthma

World Asthma Day was established in 1998 by the Global Initiative for Asthma and takes place annually on the first Tuesday of May. The purpose of the memorial day is to raise awareness of the condition amongst physicians, patients and the general public. In recognition of the event we are devoting a blog to the subject of asthma and exercise.

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. It is considered to be amongst the most common chronic diseases on the planet, affecting people from all countries, regardless of how developed. Current statistics claim that asthma affects approximately 5% of adults and 10% of children worldwide and that 3 people a day die from the condition.


What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways in the lungs. If you suffer from asthma your airways are always inflamed but certain triggers can lead them to become more swollen, with the muscles around them tightening, making it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs.

Asthma is often considered a childhood illness but it can actually develop for the first time in adults too.



Symptoms vary from person to person and in intensity, but generally include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure. Recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing are common for asthma sufferers.



Everyone with asthma has their own unique set of triggers that can irritate their airways and trigger an asthma attack. Recognising your triggers makes it is easier to prevent and control your asthma. Common triggers include:-

  • Infections like colds and flu
  • Allergies such as to pollen, dust mites, animal fur or feathers
  • Smoke, fumes and pollution
  • Medicines, particularly anti inflammatories such as ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Emotions, including stress, or laughter
  • Weather, such as sudden changes in temperature, cold air, wind, thunderstorms, heat and humidity
  • Mould or damp
  • Hormones
  • Smoking
  • Exercise


Exercise Induced Asthma

Exercise can trigger asthma symptoms for some people. You’re more likely to breathe in through your mouth during exercise which means the air you breathe will be colder and drier than when you breathe in through your nose. In some people with asthma, the airways are sensitive to temperature changes and cold or damp air entering the airways can trigger them to go into spasm, causing asthma symptoms.

You know that exercise has triggered asthma symptoms and you need to stop if you:-

  • start coughing/wheezing
  • are gasping for air/very short of breath/can’t get enough air
  • feel tightness in the chest
  • have trouble speaking in short sentences
  • younger children may complain that their chest or tummy

If you regularly have asthma symptoms when you exercise, it

may mean your asthma isn’t well controlled. Speak to your GP or asthma nurse who can help you get things sorted out so you can get active with no problems.


Accomplished Athletes With Asthma

Suffering from asthma should not deter you from exercising and participating in sports.There is no reason, with the right medication and plan, why you cannot take part in any sport you choose.

In fact, it may surprise and inspire you to know that many extremely successful sportsmen and women have asthma. Cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Laura Trott, runners Paula Radcliffe and Joe Pavey and footballers David Beckham and Paul Scholes are just a few of the well known accomplished athletes who have triumphed in spite of their condition.


Benefits of Regular Exercise for Asthma Sufferers

Research increasingly shows that provided you are looking after your asthma and your symptoms are under control, exercise is actually good for your condition. Possible benefits include:-

  • improved lung efficiency which can increase stamina and help reduce
  • immune system boosted reducing the likelihood of colds and flu, common asthma
  • helping to maintain a healthy weight which can help reduce asthma
  • improved mood which can help prevent depression and reduce stress levels, factors which have been strongly inked to many asthma attacks