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Exercise for Asthma: Benefits, Tips and More

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

This is a question everyone wonders about. Did you know that people who exercise regularly are almost 2.5 times better at taking control of their asthma as compared to those who don’t? This was discovered through a study of 643 adults with asthma published in 2015 in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research. 

Asthma can make exercising more challenging as one finds it hard to breathe. While many people want to skip physical activities as they think it triggers asthma, they tend to miss out on the key benefits of exercising, including taking better control of their asthma. But before you begin, don’t forget to talk to your doctor about the safe limits of exercise you can engage in. 

Which exercises are best for asthma?

While not all exercises are suitable for people with asthma, the following are some exercises that will not exacerbate the symptoms and can help decrease the frequency of such attacks:

1. Swimming:

One of the best exercises for people with asthma is swimming, as it builds up the muscles a person uses for breathing. It also exposes the lungs to a lot of moist and warm air, which makes it less likely to trigger asthma. A comprehensive medical review of eight studies of children and adolescents from 2013 showed that swimming increases lung function and cardiopulmonary fitness without any serious side effects in people with stable asthma.

2. Walking:

Walking is a form of exercise that can be easily incorporated into one’s daily routine. A study published in 2006 showed that regular exercise, such as walking, improved symptoms of breathlessness (dyspnea) in subjects with moderate to severe chronic lung disease.

According to an asthma survey conducted in the UK, 69 per cent of people with asthma said that they enjoyed walking as a form of exercise. With so many apps and devices available today, it is easier to keep track of the number of steps completed in a day. It would be beneficial to walk instead of taking a car or public transport and achieve the set goal for the day.

3. Yoga:

Yoga is said to be another great form of exercise for people with asthma as it practices breathing control. A 12-week study in 2009 showed a significant improvement in asthma symptoms and lung function in subjects who practised breathing exercises twice a day, for 20 minutes each.

Yoga poses such as the Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) and the Sitting Half Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) expand the chest area and allow for better inhalation. Similarly, breathing practices such as the Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique (Nadi Shodhan Pranayama) are beneficial in reducing mucus congestion.

4. Racquet sports:

Racquet sports, such as badminton or table tennis, involve less running around when compared to other forms of exercise. These sports allow one to disburse energy with regular rests between games and also have access to water so that there is no dehydration which can aggravate exercise-induced asthma.

Tips for exercising with asthma

There are steps you can take to exercise safely with severe asthma:

Carry the inhaler

It is important to always have the reliever inhaler by your side when you are exercising with asthma. If you feel the asthma symptoms are being triggered, take a break and take the inhaler and make sure that the symptoms subside before you get back to your exercise regime.


It is vital to acclimate the body to physical exertion before jumping into any kind of physical activity when exercising with asthma. Hence it is advisable to spend 5 to 10 minutes doing light warm-up exercises before starting any workout. One would not want to shock the system of the human body. Always keep in mind to always pace the body throughout the workout to avoid overexertion. Do not forget to have a cool-down session after the exercise.

Take precautions when it’s cold

It is important to take extra measures of precaution when dealing with cold weather. Wrap a scarf loosely around the mouth and nose to warm the air before it enters the airways. If one knows that cold weather triggers asthma, then it is best advised to stay indoors. Try to stick to activities which do not require a person to step outside, like yoga or walking on a treadmill.

Avoid pollen & pollution

It is important to stay away from pollen when a person with a history of asthma is exercising. Always make sure to check the weather report for pollen counts and air quality. If the report is not good, then it is best to opt for indoor activities. Also, stay away from busy roads and areas near factories. Always make sure that you inhale clean air as much as possible.

Also Read: Exercise to Increase Stamina: Science-Backed Strategies to Boost Your Endurance

Be consistent

Regular physical activity can lead to better management of asthma and its symptoms, especially in obese patients. A randomised controlled trial of 55 obese subjects showed significant clinical improvement in asthma control after being assigned to an exercise regime for 3 months.

Doctor’s consent 

One should avoid exercising if symptoms of asthma are present. Exercise is good for people with controlled symptoms of asthma. Talk to your doctor and understand the dos and don’ts of exercising if you are diagnosed with asthma. Stop exercising and consult a doctor immediately if you notice breathing difficulty or wheezing. 

Brought to you by CIPLA.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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