12 Tips for Safely Running With Asthma

Woman running in the park

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Many people with asthma believe that running and asthma are a bad mix. However, running with asthma can be great for your body if your asthma is under good control. On the other hand, running with asthma can also trigger your asthma symptoms if your asthma is poorly controlled.

Throughout the world, there are many runners who have asthma, from professional athletes to people just like you. If you want to start running again, there are a few tips that will help you prevent attacks and get the most out of a run.

The Benefits of Running

Running with asthma has a number of benefits including strengthen your respiratory muscles and help maintain your weight. These are two keys to good asthma control and can also reduce your risk of heart disease.

Getting out in the open air and knowing that you can run despite your asthma also feels good. This empowerment is just one of the psychological benefits that are possible from a regular running routine.

How Running Can Trigger an Asthma Attack

Your nose normally protects your lungs by warming air and acting as a filter. When running with asthma, your body needs more air and you begin to breathe through your mouth. Your nose does not warm, humidify, or filter the air. As a result, this can increase your risk of trigger exposure.

12 Tips for Running When You Have Asthma

The goal is to use exercise to maintain a healthy body and life. As someone with asthma, you can do that by running, but you'll want to take a few precautions to ensure running doesn't trigger an attack, including:

  1. See your doctor first. As with any chronic illness, make sure you discuss running with your doctor before you begin a significant exercise regimen. Your doctor will likely want your asthma under good control. Typically, doctors will advise you to have an action plan that outlines what to do if you develop symptoms while running.
  2. Know your limits. Running is a strenuous activity that's more likely to trigger your asthma than other activities. Start slow and always recognize just how far and how fast you can go.
  3. Quit smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 21% of adults with asthma smoke (compared to 17% of adults without asthma) and most probably began smoking when they were young. Tobacco smoke irritates the lungs and makes asthma worse. Smoking during pregnancy can also increase your child's risk of developing asthma. Quitting smoking will help you breathe and run better.
  4. Check the weather. Cold weather can make running with asthma difficult. Consider running indoors on a track or treadmill. If you just need to get outside, make sure you wear a mask or scarf to decrease the amount of cold air that gets into your lungs. Even better, do your outdoor running when it's warm and humid.
  5. Always carry your rescue inhaler. It's important to have your inhaler with you when you're running. If you experience symptoms while exercising, you can use it right away to treat the symptoms. Your doctor may also have you use it prior to exercise to try and prevent symptoms from occurring.
  6. Monitor your asthma. If your asthma isn't under good control, then you need to achieve better control before running.
  7. Follow your asthma action plan to optimize safety. Talk to your doctor about your asthma action plan and how it can support exercising. If you're not in the green zone, you shouldn't be exercising, as it could make your asthma worse.
  8. Warm-up and cool down. Avoid sudden changes in your activity that may trigger asthma symptoms. Slowly begin your workout with a warmup—don't just walk out the door and begin exercising vigorously. Likewise, don't suddenly stop exercising. Rather, slowly decrease your effort for a short period before stopping with a cool-down.
  9. Run when pollen counts are low. Either don't run or only go for a short run on days when pollen counts are high. You also may want to avoid windy days, as the more wind there is, the more likely asthma triggers are going to be airborne.
  10. Shower after running. This will decrease seasonal allergen exposure in your home. Additionally, you can leave your clothes in your laundry room and brush off your shoes. A warm shower also provides warm, moist air that can be of benefit after running.
  11. Run after it rains. Rain washes away many asthma triggers like pollen, and pollen counts are lowest following a rainstorm. The best time for running with asthma is a rainy, wet, cloudy, and windless days.
  12. Consider a protective mask. Wearing a protective pollen mask while you run can decrease trigger exposure.
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Article Sources
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  1. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Asthma and Exercise.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Percentage of people with asthma who smoke. Updated January 31, 2013.