Running with Asthma


Asthma doesn't have to keep you from enjoying a daily run, sports or even a marathon. With proper medication and some common sense precautions, runners who have asthma — whether chronic asthma or exercise-induced asthma (EIA) — can keep stride with the rest of the pack.

Medical Guidance for Asthma

Naturally, the first step before considering any potentially dangerous physical activity is to consult your doctor. He or she can offer advice on coping with asthma during a run and can educate you on proactive uses for any medications or inhaled steroids you may have been prescribed. Ask your doctor about how common OTC pain relievers such as NSAIDs and acetaminophen can trigger asthma symptoms. Listen carefully and follow his or her advice.

Optimum Conditions for Running with Asthma

Armed with the knowledge (and blessing) of your physician and your battery of prescribed medications (always remember your rescue inhaler), you’re ready to hit the road! Not so fast. There are several more variables to consider.

Some asthma attacks largely stem from the upper respiratory system’s inability to turn cold, dry air into warm, humid air. Therefore, running on more humid days will be easier on your lungs. On colder days, wearing a scarf or face mask over your mouth and nose will help your breath stay warm and moist. It will also help block air contaminants such as pollen or smog, which have been known to trigger asthma.

Speaking of pollen (any other cedar fever sufferers out there?), the pollen count is generally higher in the morning. Keep an eye on local predictions and be as flexible as possible with your running schedule. Also, be mindful of your course. Don’t run through a grove of trees or a botanical garden if it can be avoided.

For urban runners, smog can be just as triggering as pollen, so be wary of running in areas with inadequate ventilation and excessive vehicle traffic. Pollution is generally worse later in the day. Running inside on a treadmill may be less exciting than an outdoor expedition, but it will be easier to control the climate.

Warm Up to the Idea

When you're finally set to start exercising, take it slow. Warm up with light activity or a brisk walk to help your airways adjust. Don't overdo it. Transition into an easy jog and listen to your body. Take a break when you need it. Stop if you become lightheaded or if your breathing becomes restricted. If you can hold a conversation while running, you're probably doing OK. If speaking is difficult, stop and catch your breath. Alternate the intensity of your run — short bursts of activity mixed with periods of rest or slower activity. You'll be amazed at how well you can do!

Cool Down After the Run

Cooling down with stretches, walking or a hot shower or bath will help ease the shock to your airways. Shoot for allowing yourself 10 minutes of cool-down time following any running session. Try to control the rate and depth of your breathing throughout any activity.

Final Thoughts on Safely Running with Asthma

Below is a list of things to consider when running with asthma:

• Breathe through your nose when possible.

• Rest when you need to; don’t push yourself.

• Use an inhaler several minutes before starting out.

• Always carry a rescue inhaler and use it at the first sign of wheezing.

• Alternate the intensity of your activity.

• Run with a wingman or group for safety.

• Be aware of the asthma-triggering side effects of common OTC pain relievers.

By taking a few precautionary steps, easing yourself into and out of exercise, and using common sense, chronic and EIA asthma sufferers can enjoy a life of normalcy on the road, treadmill , trail or track.


Happy running!