Shortness of breath- asthma or just unfit?

Hey all, hoping you can settle an argument for me here!

I had a bit of a scary do with my asthma a couple of months ago, my first and hopefully last. Since then I've quit smoking and I'm on a higher dose of my inhaler than I was. My asthma is pretty much totally under control, and doesn't really bother me at all now.

I work in a busy nursing home, the work's very physical with lots of running around particularly on the morning shifts. I've noticed since my return to work from sickness that I get quite short of breath occasionally, mostly while working, usually when exerting myself but also occasionally when just talking (that's usually when it's a subject I'm passionate about though lol!). It doesn't happen every shift though, and sometimes I can run up the stairs without a problem, which makes me think it's asthma more than being unfit since I do the same work and run around like a headless chicken every shift.

My sister, who loves to say the opposite of anything I say, keeps telling me it's cos I'm just unfit and I need to exercise and spend a fortune on keep fit stuff at Argos!

What do you think? I'm not after medical advice here or owt like that, cos the shortness of breath doesn't really bother me, and usually goes once I've rested or taken my puffer, just an opinion from people who are objective would be great!

6 Replies

  • If it were fitness related then you would expect to be consistently breathless for a similar amount of exertion. If you are more breathless at certain times of day, that sounds more like asthma. I am quite fit but still have trouble with morning breathlessness until the inhalers kick in. If the inhalers help, then again this sounds more asthmatic than fitness.

  • Thanks Alison, that's pretty much what I was thinking, I'll tell my sister she can put that Argos catalogue away now! ;)

  • Is it possible for the mods and Donna to sort this one out without the need to drag all of us though it.

    I have marshmallows, toasting sticks and a magic no smoking fire if anyone fancies one with their horlicks?


  • I'm inclined to agree with Alison that it sounds more like asthma than general unfitness, especially if your breathlessness is alleviated by your inhaler. However, if you are unfit then improving this may have a beneficial effect on your asthma too, and your body's general ability to deal with the asthma (so speaks someone who is currently rather unfit ;oP ).



  • I hope the following helps.

    I am trying extremely hard to keep myself fit, gym at least 3 times a week, but sometimes get very breathless there. I always take ventolin before I start and sometimes during. I have only had to stop totally twice in 3 months, but both of those have been in the morning which may be a bit of a clue. What I have learnt, with my trainer, is that a number of short bursts of cardio stuff is better than fewer but longer periods. The fact that I can cope with lots of shorter bursts suggests that it is not lack of fitness.

    The other one thing I learned the hard way is not to do cardio stuff so fast that I just run out of time to breathe. My techniques are usually very good, assisted by Yoga and Pilates, but I did push myself one day on the rowing machine - I went so very fast that, although I had the in/out technique, I seemed to forget that it needed a bit of time to actually get some air in as well as rowing. I just dropped the speed on further sessions, but was able to go on for longer on each of those (still at reasonably fast speeds). This also suggests that breathlessness is not lack of fitness.


  • I have just written this to friend on the site via messages, but thought it might be useful. I tend to get years when I am better than others or visa versa, and in 1996 I joined a gym to combat what I considered to be a rough patch of both asthma and rhinitis and general low ebb in health and fitness!

    I was shown the aerobic equipment first, ie running machine, rowing etc. They said I should start with these before going onto the weights. So I started, and almost straight away so did my asthma as I trotted away! I kept on slowing up and then breaking into a trot again, and did the rowing, step ups and all of it. When I had finsihed after a full hour I went up to the instructor and whispered that I'd managed it all, to which he screamed, ""What's wrong with you!"". I then sloped off to the changing room and took a good look at myself in the mirror. I have never seen such a wet flourescent purple face in all my life, but I was so proud! When I next came the instructor had a quiet word with me and said that I was under no circumstances to push weights until I had done a full month of aerobic excercise for a full hour twice a week (I assume he thought I was very unfit!). So I went through the whole thing again without complaining. After a month of this though I was able to lenghten the time before the asthma would kick in, until it didn't at all, partly by also starting with the excercises that were easiest, such as rowing. So that was my excercise trigger dealt with, painfully!

    I might add that at the time I had a small unit selling books at the top of three flights of winding metal steps in an antiques/craft centre. I am certain that the fitness that I achieved helped to curb any breathlessness carrying crates of books up these many steps!

    It does seem that an increased level of fitness will help to delay the point at which the breathlessness of asthma will kick in when excercising, and possibly stop it altogether with certain tasks.


    PS Hi auntymonkey, I have just re read your post, and do realise that my one dosn't quite answer your question -it may indeed be more than just the excercise trigger/fitness, but worth thinking about. A good test might be to see how you get on in with various aerobic excercises exerting yourself in gym conditions!

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