The Best and Worst Workouts for Asthma

Experts help pinpoint the types of activities best suited for asthma sufferers — and the activities they should avoid

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Asthma symptoms do not make exercise ideal — that we’re sure you already know. But dealing with exercise-induced asthma doesn’t mean physical activity is out of the question.

Once you receive a proper diagnosis and strategic treatment plan from your doctor, you’ll find that working out, playing sports and participating in other activities can actually become enjoyable again.

Of course, part of that treatment plan might include avoiding activities or specific workouts that can trigger asthma symptoms.

“Since asthma is an inflammatory response in the lungs, it’s best to not cause them to become overworked,” explained Rui Li, owner of CakeFit and a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified trainer. “Anaerobic activities such as weight training, Pilates and calisthenics would be ideal.”

It’s not surprising that most of the experts we talked with recommend workouts and activities that keep intensity to a minimum, but just because you suffer from asthma doesn’t mean faster, more challenging workouts are totally off limits.

“Sports that include short, quick bursts of exertion are generally safe,” said Dr. Scott Schreiber, a chiropractor, licensed dietitian nutritionist and certified nutrition specialist.

It’s endurance sports, like long-distance running, or activities where intense exertion is sustained over a longer period, that asthma sufferers typically don’t tolerate as well, he explained.

Additionally, another factor that many often overlook, Schreiber said, is the outside environment.

“Outside activity during allergy season can really aggravate the condition,” he said. “In addition, some asthmatics respond negatively to humidity.”

Ultimately, your doctor will be your best resource when it comes to establishing an effective asthma treatment plan, but when it comes to exercise, part of that will include a bit of trial and error as you test out which types of workouts and activities you personally tolerate best.

To help you get started, here’s a look at what experts say are some of the worst and best workouts for asthma sufferers.

Endurance Sports, Like Distance Running, Soccer and Basketball

Worst

For those who suffer from asthma, Schreiber advised against activities that require long bouts of endurance. The constant, heavy breathing necessary to sustain such activities tends to dry out and irritate the airways. That said, as Mark Holbreich, M.D., an Indianapolis-based allergist, pointed out to Health, an activity like long-distance running, especially if you really enjoy it, isn’t entirely out of the question. You just need to work with your doctor to make sure you’re being treated properly and effectively.

Circuit Training

Worst

Li suggested asthma sufferers steer clear of high-intensity workouts, like circuit training routines, which typically require the exerciser to sustain an elevated heart rate and heavy breathing for extended periods of time, with little amounts of rest. 

Click here to see more of the best and worst workouts for asthma.

More Reading:
Trouble Breathing? It Might Not Be Asthma.
Warm Up to Conquer Exercise-Induced Asthma
How to Breathe for Every Type of Exercise

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