British Lung Foundation
34,255 members41,652 posts

Can't exercise

I really need to do something to improve my fitness levels but I don't know what to do. I am reasonably fit and play sport 4 hours a week and walk lots but when I try to run, or when I suddenly have to be active (including when I play sport), I get out of breath really quickly. I could walk for hours and be fine, but even a jog to the end of the street and I struggling for breath.

Initially I thought it was my asthma but I'm not sure, I mean sometimes it definitely is, but not always. If it's my asthma I feel tight chested, start coughing, get an itchy feeling inside my lungs and in my teeth (random) and it's relieved with salbutamol. Other times I'm just out of breath, it takes me a long time to recover breathing normally and it doesn't respond to salbutamol.

I always use my salbutamol before exercise and playing sport and I use seretide twice a day. This feeling of not being able to catch my breath is putting me off pushing myself as it scares me. The fear of my asthma is scary enough but at least I know salbutamol will help, even if I need 4-6 puffs to gain control.

Any suggestions? Is it just because I'm unfit?

5 Replies

Hi Butterfly, I don't think you are unfit, not by any measure I know of since you do sport 4x a week and walk lots. If I was you, I would tell my GP that sometimes the salbutomol doesn't have any effect. Then I'd ask my GP for a spirometry test which will show if there is any obstruction in the lungs. If it is just that your asthma has got worse, then the result will be, partly at least, reversible. In other words, if the first spirometry test does show obstruction, you would take some puffs of salbutamol and do the test again 20 minutes later and the result would have improved.

Ask for a copy of results of any tests you do - this is your right, and you can call up the BLF helpline - 03000 030 555 office hours - and discuss the results with their nurses.


Thank you for your reply. I had a spirometry test when diagnosed with asthma about 7 years ago, but it proved inconclusive but it's possible things have changed since then and at least it's a start. I'm also not entirely convinced that the nurse was fully competent to do it, as the reversibility part was done only 2-3 minutes after the salbutamol. My own monitoring of peak flow before and after was conclusive however.


If it was seven years ago, then you're well overdue for another one. And you're right - 2-3 minutes gap between the first and the second test is totally incompetent! Remember that peak flow is a different measurement to spirometry, peak flow measuring (obviously!) rate of flow, and spirometry measuring volume. But they often do reflect each other.

Unless there is another condition which is making you breathless (e.g. heart) and your GP will be able to tell you that, I would suggest you try to keep on exercising with the activities you can manage. Getting breathless within reason is positively good for us.

A medicine review might be helpful - it might be that your medication needs have changed. 4-6 puffs of salbutomal is a lot to be taking in one go and another reason to consider going to your GP. Let us know what happens. Good luck :)


Ah ok, didn't realise the spirometry should be repeated over time.

I do keep doing what I can exercisewise and just stop when I get too breathless, I do enjoy it up until that point 😊

I will get booked in for a GP review then, and see what comes of that. Hopefully they can offer some advice and look into current medication levels.

Thank you for your advice

1 like

I'm old and unfit, but I still do a bit using an exercise bike and a rowing machine. I have to be careful using the rowing machine, but I can pedal away on the bike, adjusting the setting to suit how I feel at the time, without it affecting my breathing too much.


You may also like...