Asthma in runners – How to Safely Run With Asthma

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Man runner chest cramps after running. Jogging man with chest pain after jogging work out.

It’s no secret that running with asthma can be tricky.

Many runners with asthma may experience wheezing, coughing, difficultly breathing, or chest tightness both during and after running.

In fact, any shortness of breath or wheezing triggers fears that an attack could hit.

That’s why many asthmatic people try to avoid running.

But, in actuality, cardio workouts, like running, may help you improve breathing control and minimize the effects of asthma, research shows.

In today’s post, I’ll explain what exercise-induced asthma is all about as well as how to manage and prevent it while running.

Sounds great?

Let’s lace up and dig in.

Let’s get started.

Note – Just because you cough or have difficulty breathing while running doesn’t mean you have an asthma attack.

There’s a host of conditions that can mimic asthma, such as vocal cord dysfunction or different kind of allergies.

Consult your doctor for a full diagnosis.

Also, get the green light from your doctor before you start running or make any drastic exercise change.

Exercise-Induced Asthma Explained

Also known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, or EIB for short, exercise-induced asthma, as the name implies, is caused by prolonged exercise.

EIB causes wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and other symptoms during or after exercise, triggered by the narrowing of the airways in the lungs.

Keep in mind that you can keep diagnosed with EIB without a diagnosis of asthma.

In fact, survey shows that roughly 10 percent of people come down with asthma symptoms only during exercise don’t have a history of the condition.

Don’t Blame Running Itself

When it comes to asthma, exercise is likely just one of several factors that may cause breathing difficulties.

During breathing, your nose warms up and humidifies the air getting in.

But when exercising, especially when running, we breathe faster and more deeply.

When the air is colder and drier, the membranes that line the airway passages in your lungs can swell, causing symptoms.

Factors that may increase the risk of exercise-induced asthma include:

  • Dry air
  • Cold air
  • Air pollution
  • Long-distance running
  • Chlorine in swimming pools


Common symptoms of EIB may begin during or soon after running, lasting for an hour or longer if left untreated.

The symptoms hit five to ten minutes after exercise ends and often go away on their own within an hour of rest.

Some of these include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue during running
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Mediocre athletic performance

The Ways

Nothing can really stop you unless you let it.

The key to solve this is by understanding the cause so you can prevent it.

Without further ado, here are a few measures to help you make the most out of your runs when you have asthma.

Warm up

I cannot stress enough the importance of warming up.

A good warm-up not only prevents injury and ensures good performance but could also keep your asthma at bay by getting your lungs ready for the hard work ahead.

Always begin by jogging slowly for five minutes, then perform a set of dynamic stretches in a fast and continuous manner.

Think lunges, inchworms leg swings, butt kicks, etc. then do a few short, hard pick-ups—or bursts of speed running at a controlled pace.


Know Your Limits

The key to avoiding asthma episodes while running is to start slow and pay attention to how fast and how far you can go.

Don’t push your body beyond the limit—or else, you’ll regret it later.

Measure your training intensity using the talk-test.

If you can keep a conversation going while running, then you’re likely okay.

If your breathing becomes restricted or starts to feel faint or dizzy, ease back and rest until your breathing is back to normal.

Choose The Right Weather and Season

In general, it’s the best run in humid and warm conditions.

Pay attention during spring and fall.

Some of you might have pollen or grass sensitivity that triggers asthma.

If you have to run outside in the cold, put on a scarf or facemask to cover your mouth and nose— this helps warm the air up before it reaches your lungs, preventing it from irritating your airways.

Or, jump on the treadmill—indoor running is less like to induce an asthma attack.

Find The Right Time

If you’ve clear asthma triggers, such as smog or pollen, figure out when is best to run outside.

Pollen is often higher in the early morning, whereas smog is usually problematic later in the day.

As a rule, avoid running or only go for a short run on days when pollen counts are elevated.

Take Your Meds

Keep an emergency inhaler handy whenever you’re planning to run.

If you start to get symptoms while running, you can use it right away.

Asthma medication used before working out can control and mitigate exercise-induced asthma symptoms, especially short-acting beta-2 asthma medication, such as albuterol.

Even if you only use it once in a blue moon, it’s better to safe than sorry.

Consult to your doctor if you have persistent side effects from medication such as palpitation or tremors before you start logging miles.

Pay Attention to Your Body

If you start feeling that your lungs are acting up, slow down or stop running altogether.

You may experience wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or coughing.

Next, get your rescue inhaler and follow your asthma treatment plan.

Take up running again once your symptoms subside by starting slowly or even walk.

Running through the symptoms only makes things worst.

When to See A Doctor

Consult your doctor if you experience chronic symptoms or tend to exacerbate more than once in a year.

What’s more?

Keep in mind that a host of health conditions may mimic asthma and cause similar symptoms, making it important to get a thorough and accurate diagnosis.


Ultimately having asthma shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your running goals and living a healthy lifestyle.

And, in some cases, running with asthma can actually help your symptoms

By taking the right asthma measures, during, and after your runs, you can safely and comfortably keep on running and doing this sport to meet your training goals.

So lace up those running shoes and run with it.

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