British Lung Foundation
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Exercise Triggering Anxiety Attacks

The thought of getting severely short of breath when walking up a slope causes me to be anxious which causes panic attacks with severe physical and emotional symptoms.

A loop is formed when I become more anxious worrying about how future attacks will affect my breathing which triggers more attacks.

Need to be able to control breathing when panic takes over have not been taught anything yet which I can remember when this happens.

6 Replies

I am assuming Crisps this is all a new process, getting breathless and not knowing how to control it. Anxiety is so common with breathing issues and you are not alone. For many years having Asthma Attacks were awful, now I just take them in my stride. What is an excellent starting point is the fact you know what is causing your anxiety. And that is a hurdle you have already dealt with so well done. Next step is to decide how you want to manage it. And I would say little steps, not big ones. Going up slopes makes me short of breath as does walking the dog now even on the flat. So in order to be in control of my breathing I pace myself. It doesn't matter if it takes me all day to get somewhere, just as long as I take my time and I am in control of my breathing. Have you thought about using distraction as a method of dealing with your fear, maybe plug in an MP3 player and listen to something that you really enjoy. When my Asthma is bad sometimes putting myself in a happy place can really help. Finally if you fall whilst taking those all important little steps, don't beat yourself up, think of it as a learning process and few of us get it right first time xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wishing you the best of luck Daxie Mad. And finally before you even attempt walking slopes, plan your little journeys, and put yourself in the right frame of mind. Relaxation tapes are available that will teach you to breath, something you can practise at home in privacy at your own pace. These alone can be very helpful in dealing with anxieties.


Good Morning, You are in exactly the same position as my husband was - he was really scared of his breathlessness and was using his rescue inhaler so many times a day. The one thing that has changed his life is the Pulmonary Rehab course becaue it taught him it is alright to be breathless, most people get breathless to some extent when excercising. He was also given masses of information about excercise etc. which he refused to try until the PR. The Breathe Easy groups have been really good as well, they have even started a light excercise group each week. It might be worth trying to join a Breath Easy group in your area and ask your doc. about PR. I think it saved my husbands life! Good luck! TAD xx


Hi Crisp,

You have been given lots of good advice in the replies above. Please ask to be refered for Pulmonary Rehab, it really will help you to gain control over your condition. when you find certain activities make you breathless you get anxious,

your anxiety is increasing your breathlessness it is like a viscious circle. It is very important to pace yourself and if you need to stop & get your breathing under control do so. Being breathless can be scary but it is ok to be breathless, you will learn your own tolerance level at Pulmonary Rehab & given time will be able to increace your exercise tolerance level. You will learn how to control your breathing, which I know is not easy when having panic attacks.

I do hope you get on a PR course.

Best wishes

Jo :-)


Hi there crisps

I too suffer with breathlessness and therefore know how awful it is. I was diagnosed just over 3 years ago and it has steadily got worse.It has taken me a long time to come to terms and accept everything that goes with the condition, ie;- breathlessness, tight chest, panic attacks, everyday changes etc. The importance of planning is vital and to do things slowly, my advice is to set off with a ten minute walk (5 mins out, 5 mins. return) and then build it up.

Try and do some pulmonary exercises every day, there are some good sites on here. Do keep in touch and keep your chin up

Regards Linda.


hi crisps i have the same problem with the big hill where i live i get out of breath half way up and have to stop a few times in which i pant to help relieve the symptoms i was told i had copd only a year ago so i stopped smoking and this has helped me but i am only moderate copd so i hope you find your way of dealing with it all the best reddy


Hi Crisps,

You've had some really good advice from everyone before me, but just to reiterate: exercise will actually help your breathlessness but only if you are guided from a physio through Pulmonary Rehab about how to increase your physical activity safely.

Please see these pages about exercise for more info, and ask your GP to get referred to rehab so you can beat that hill!

best of luck and dont give up!


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