Log in
Asthma UK community forum
12,173 members18,116 posts

Question about exercising with symptoms

Hi guys,

So I'm sick again (as you can see with my other post). But I'm a bit confused about when it's O.K. to exercise with asthma and when it's not a good idea. I guess I should clarify, that when I'm having trouble breathing, mostly I try to walk as much as possible at work, and when out, park my car far away in the lot, you know within reason, and as feasible. I just find it is so easy to get deconditioned if I do nothing.

That said, then I use a recumbent stepped at the gym and have been slowly building up to my rather meager 15 min. of cardio. Before the big asthma flare of Oct. I was up to 22/24 min. Anyways I do that, and then go for a walk outside on the weekend (weather and breathing permitting of course).

But then there is right now, where I was in the ED yesterday, and they offered to admit me. I'm pretty much consigned to my couch and should after walking anywhere except to the bathroom and to get some food, I should probably avoid my mail (the mold in it triggers me) and dusting as well at the moment.

Anyways, I would like to not give up on exercise but am a bit of a loss, as I don't want to make things worse either!


13 Replies

hi bee sorry you're feeling rotten

I can't remember the last time i felt as bad as you do now but i'm a stubborn mare almost nothing will stop me exercising (especially dancing). I don't get bad attacks really i just cough a lot and have often been known to cough my way through my dancing lessons (i think i annoy people lol but i also think they've probably got used to me by now) when i have my private lesson and i'm bad my teacher has this sneaky method of getting me to chat therefore to stop dancing for a while haha She's well used to me by now and knows i know how far to push myself. I did scare her once - the inhaler i had with me wasn't working (empty or clogged? I don't know) anyway i knew there was another one in the car but as we were on the 2nd floor she didn't want me to go down so took my car keys and went to get it herself haha We did more gentle stuff for a while after that and i was fine.

sorry for rambling about myself but just thought i'd tell you about my experiences of exercising with symptoms


Hello again!

My answer is rather like jinglefairy: im wondering the same thing myself at the mo. Im officially in heart lung and kidney failure. At the mo my pf is never out of the yellow zone and often in red though tbh im not feeling so symptomatic. Mostly tight chest but i do get wheeze and sob during/after exercise. Im hoping to take up wheelchair rugby and have borrowed a handcycle but am putting it off at the mo as i feel unsure of myself. Personally ill be talking to my gp about it on monday. Maybe you could discuss this with your lung cons on tuesday?

Sorry i cant really help but hope things improve soon and you dont become too floppy in the meantime ;-)

Rose xx


my lungs are being particularily stroppy at the moment, and i was wondering this too, so im glad you asked! i was planning on talking to my gp about it as im gaining weight with all the pred im on and i can cope as long as i know im doing as much as i can to prevent it. then its not 'my fault'!

a couple of thoughts i had had were that it might be possible to do some stuff with weights as this doesnt really make me SOB but is still working my body. The second one really really depends on the individual, and if you havent done it before probs best to check with gp/cons but for me climbing is the best type of exercise. its a lot of muscular stuff with really short bursts of cardio, and long breaks in between to give the lungs a break. at the moment i cant go as im completely unable to be sensible, the second i step into a climbing wall i just go straight to the hard stuff and have ended up in costa as i pushed too hard too fast. but as long as your able to be sensible its really great. im sure there must be other types of exercise where its short bursts of cardio and then some longer muscular stuff, but climbing is the one that springs to mind for me.

also, worth remembering that walking is pretty tough exercise when you cant breathe, so you are still making your body work (i think of it as similar to when althletes train at altitude and need to do a bit less training than they would normally as the air is thinner)

let me know if your gp says anything in particular as id be really interested.


Ditto here on great question and wanting to know what your GP say

Right now for me, even just walking can sometimes end up in a flare, so things like running aren't on the agenda. But on the other hand, if all I do is sit around, I'm afraid I'm going to be out of breath from de-conditioning and not from asthma. Also, sometimes I just need to get out and do errands. Errands are hard to do without walking about for a couple of hours.

I don't know if this is the right thing, but here's what I've been doing.

I try each day to go out on a short walk (1-3km). Even though it is ""only"" walking, I treat it as if it were exercise - i.e. pre-treating with ventolin 15 minutes or so before I go out. Also to prevent flares, I just use the reliever whenever symptoms increase and aren't going away, even if that means ignoring the usual rules about how often I should use it. Also if my heart rate gets too high or I feel I'm using accessory muscles way out of proportion to walking, I just look for the next bench and sit until it goes back down again.

So far that's worked for me. The only issue I've seen is that if I push too hard one day, the next day ends up a sofa day.


Hi BeeThere - I completely relate to your dilemma and would also be interested to hear what your Dr says. I think it is really important to listen to your body, and learn how exercise affects it. I've just started slowly jogging again, and in the cold I seem to be having delayed symptoms the evening after or the day after, so I'm trying to learn from that and slow it down even more when I'm running in the cold.

I think being active can only help in the long run (ie when your symptoms are stable) but maybe it also depends what other triggers you've been exposed to - like cold weather if that affects you.

I'm sorry I don't have any proper answers, just sympathy :) Hope you feel better soon x


It's so hard to know when to and how to exercise when you have symptoms or are recovering from an exacerbation. I'm a mountain instructor, so my base level of fitness is such that I can be out in the mountains 12 days in a row at work and yes feel tired but recover quickly. A few weeks ago I had a chest infection and asthma flare up and have spent a while recovering, but thought I had recovered well enough. This week I was supposed to work for 3 days in the hills, I managed 2 days and have spent the last 4 days barely being able to walk mostly because muscles have felt like I'd run 2 back to back marathons, due to pred I think which I have only just finished a three week taper. (sorry for the rant). It's easy to over do things and go backwards, so take things easy and if you've not exercised much recently it might be worth talking things through with your doctor. Like EmC says, sometimes lungs are reasonably good while exercising, but will show thier objections after exercise, especially at night or maybe even the next day. Take care and hope you can exercise (even if it's just a tiny bit for now). Hugs x


Thank you for all the lovely answers! It's certainly nice to know I'm not alone in this, although I hate to see anyone else suffering. LOL. I looked up general info. online with exercise induced asthma etc., and found it generally unhelpful. Because really, if I stopped exercising whenever I had a symptom, I would never exercise!

It is so nice to see how you are all keeping at exercising, and being a bit rebelious in your own way :). One thing I'm definitely asking my cons. is to me I can exercise indoors some of the week, and do well as I exercise at the physical therapy gym so look forward to seeing people there, but I walking outdoors is REALLY important to me, and to keeping me sane.

So maybe if I use my neb. before? Instead of just my inhaler? I don't know. I like the idea of weight lifting. And actually I have yoga video I used to use more, which should be O.K. Because it's relaxing, and something when I can't do much else.

I did go out to the grocery store today and got a few things, and did one small load of laundry. Oh, it was interesting, but there were a few clothing items I couldn't do without!

By the way, I actually love exercising, so not being able to do as much as I want does make me sad. It's nice to see hannahrose that you are looking into some different things. I have inflammatory arthritis and congenital heart defects myself, so everthing together of course makes the exercising quandry more interesting.

And Lou I love that you mountain climb. Good for you!

And Em, that's helpful I'll have to pay attention if things get worse several hours to a day later. That part I find confusing, because sometimes it's later enough that I don't put two and two together.

I'll let you know if I find out anything useful tomorrow.




I looked up general info. online with exercise induced asthma etc., and found it generally unhelpful. Because really, if I stopped exercising whenever I had a symptom, I would never exercise!

It is so nice to see how you are all keeping at exercising, and being a bit rebelious in your own way :). One thing I'm definitely asking my cons. is to me I can exercise indoors some of the week, and do well as I exercise at the physical therapy gym so look forward to seeing people there, but I walking outdoors is REALLY important to me, and to keeping me sane.

Lol. I like the thought that we're being rebelious when exercising. I do agree that info about exercising with asthma is poor. The times that I exercise without symptoms are almost as rare as rocking horse poo. I wish there was some info about how to exercise with uncontrolled asthma


LOL. I looked up general info. online with exercise induced asthma etc., and found it generally unhelpful. Because really, if I stopped exercising whenever I had a symptom, I would never exercise!

Exactly. Most of it seems to be geared to unsymptomatic people who are afraid to exercise in case it causes symptoms. I did find one source though through google. The University of Pittsburg medical center has a group for severe asthma that meets one a month and they publish a summary of the discussion on line. It doesn't have much detail, but it does touch on the same issues and has a few helpful suggestions. Link: asthmainstitute.pitt.edu/do... .


The specialist respiratory physio is a good person to ask about exercise - they can discuss your individual needs and suggest appropriate exercise for you. I cant exercise outside as my triggers are pollen in the summer and cold in the winter.. so I have a turbo and do very slow exercise indoors on my bike. The intensity is according to my heart rate and breathing as set by my physio. I also monitor my 02 saturation and stop for a break if I go outside the parameters advised.

Lynda :)


I am really with you on there not being enough info about this! Currently my physio helps me with this which has made it a lot easier as I have someone knowledgeable advising me. Worth seeing if you can see a physio maybe, if you haven't got one already? (Actually, this applies to everyone except Bee - though it would be useful for you, I have no idea what the equivalent would be in the US - physical therapist, respiratory therapist?)

Though the physio I saw before that told me I had breathing pattern issues with exercise (which I do, as well as it being an asthma trigger - so confusing) so I 'needed to do more exercise', then discharged me. Umm yes, helpful NOT. Current cons has agreed that there's no point telling me I need to exercise without giving me some help on how to do it, and this physio has been way better about understanding my issues and what I need to do - though we had a slight disagreement where she doesn't think exercise tolerance is an asthma metric and it's related to something else. I begged to differ, since pre-medication/diagnosis I used to find anything more than a slow walk to work and back would leave me flat out; I'm glad to say that since being put on medication that works, I may be slower during flare-ups but I have never got that bad again so I think it probably IS asthma-related.

I still can't do anything massively energetic like a zumba class (I did some Scottish dancing recently which I found a bit easier than expected, as in I managed to get through it, though involved rather a lot of reliever and being worse afterwards), but I try to walk as much as possible as well as doing my gym sessions. I'd like to do swimming but find the steamy chlorinated air is a problem.


Philomela- You should come swim in my local pool, it's deffo not warm and steamy in there. I've even considered wearing a wetsuit it's so cold. Lol


Hi guys,

Sorry about the delay in posting...I tried to post yesterday but got logged out, and I am a bit of a different time zone!

It's so nice to hear from you all though about the exercise thing, because I thought I was the only one :). I mean rationally I know I'm not, but it's still terrific to have a community that ""gets it.""

Beth, that is probably the only useful article I've seen on exercising with ""our type"" of asthma. Thanks so much! I especially like that Dr. Wenzel specifically says that exercised induced asthma is basically a different problem. As one of you said...most articles are for those who have a bit of trouble breathing, and need encouragement not to be scared of exercise. For me, I'd like to know when/how to exercise despite it all!

I think the physio. you're talking about is what we would call a respiratory therapist. I see a physical therapist for arthritis, but that's more muscles and things. With respiratory rehab., there's a mix of repiratory therapists, and physical therapists who kind of specialize who work there. I'm not sure if I'd qualify, as I think you need to be admitted to hospital first, but I could find out. And at the very least mean to ask my pulmonologist some questions about how/when to exercise.

By the way, attempting to go to work today. It's been pretty terrible, but mornings do seem to be a bit better. I've coughed non-stop for about 3 days and feel like someone beat me up! I didn't get to see my doctor yesterday, because apparently he was so sick he could barely talk and had to cancel all his appointments! So hopefully work doesn't give me trouble without a doctor's note, and it works O.K., more importantly.

I'm seeing my pulmonologist on Wed. instead.



You may also like...