Seven Best Exercises for Asthmatics

by John Bottrell Health Professional

So you've come to grips you have asthma, and now you've decided to heed the advice of the "asthma experts" and get your body in shape. Now you're wondering, "What are the best exercises for people with asthma?"

Exercise is essential. Along with improving your health, the Mayo Clinic notes here that exercise also improves your mood, gives you more energy, helps you sleep better, and can be fun too.

If you have asthma, exercise is even more important. It strengthens your lung muscles, which improves lung function. It strengthens your heart which makes you less winded with exertion. Over time, the more you exercise the more tolerant your heart and lungs become to the effects of exertion.

However, it's tough sometimes for asthmatics to exercise. Since 80 percent of us also have exercise- induced asthma (EIA), sledding out in the cold, dry air can instigate a dreaded asthma attack and set you back. Cross country skiing and ice skating may pose similar problems.

And too often, strenuous exercise, like you get while rushing back and forth on the basketball court, hockey rink or soccer field, can trigger asthma. Sometimes during the high pollen season (which is just around the corner) exercising outdoors can also trigger asthma.

Still, by working with your doctor, and obtaining good asthma control, many asthmatics can do any exercise, anywhere and any time. For example, Olympians with EIA were able to participate in the cold weather Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which I wrote about here.

However, many of us have our limitations. We have to pick exercises that work best for people with asthma. So, listed here are seven exercises that all asthmatics can participate in?

1. Swimming: Way back in the 1980s I was told this was the best exercise for asthmatics. It's good because the air around pools is moist and warm, and less likely to trigger asthma. You also get a good amount of physical activity.

Since EIA is triggered after running for six or more minutes of continuous movement, you may want to try things that let you move in short bursts, such as:

2. Team sports: This would include activities such as Baseball, Football or Vollyball. You'll only need to run while the ball is in play, yet you can still get a good workout.

3. Martial Arts : This activity is generally done indoors, and the short movements are enough to get you in good shape, build muscle tone, and may also help you develop a sound mind and body.

4. Yoga : Another activity that is generally done indoors, and also helps to relax your mind.

5. Biking : If the weather is right, this is a great way to get in shape. You can also get a stationary bike for your home.

6. Walking : This is safe in any environment.

7. Jogging or running : I list this here tentatively. If you have controlled asthma, you should be able to do this as I noted above. Ideally, this should be done when the weather is warm, or on a treadmill. Pace yourself though. Pacing is key.

I wrote here how I am now able to run with asthma. I wrote here how even someone with Hardluck Asthma can finish a marathon.

8. Weight training: This is a good way to build strength, improve muscle tone, and lose weight. You can do simple workouts with a five pound dumbell, or you can do something like this intense Body-for-Life workout that I do.You'll get results regardless, although don't expect to look like [\Arnold, which these before and after pictures suggest. I work out in my own basement, but you can also join a club. For some more tips, you can check out this site.

I find if I go a long time without exercising my asthma gets worse. Of course anyone who's sedentary will get winded eventually, although I find this to be accentuated when you have asthma. So asthma kind of gives you an added incentive to start moving as I wrote about here.

So don't let the fact you have asthma stop you from exercising. Work with your doctor to gain control of your asthma, and then find an exercise program that works best for you.

John Bottrell
Meet Our Writer
John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).