Exercise induced asthma is a very common disease in today’s society. There are a multitude of reasons why it is quite prevalent such as environment and genetics.

However, exercise induced asthma is not a deterrent from starting and staying physically active. In this article we will explore what happens when we experience an asthmatic episode, how to prevent it and how to improve our health and fitness level with the disease.


Tightness in your chest, restricted breathing and evening wheezing are quite common signs of an exercise induced asthmatic attack.

Typically we experienced these symptoms when we do not properly warm-up for exercise, the weather is humid or extremely cold and we push our body beyond limitations. Your lungs, which are enclosed in a protective rib cage and encased skeletal muscle, function like a balloons. When you breathe in the lungs expand and when you breathe out they compress.

If you are not properly warmed up, the skeletal muscles around the ribcage are not loosened up and this makes it difficult for your lungs to bring breathe in the desired amount of oxygen. If the climate you are training in is humid or bitterly cold, then air you are breathing in for demanding skeletal muscles is heavier and thicker and thus difficult for your body to breathe.

Wheezing can be experienced as the body is in demand for more oxygen and is it is being restricted due to tightness in the chest and or the air quality.

How do we warm up properly to avoid an exercise induced asthmatic episode?

Your warm up prior to exercise should be 5-10 minutes of a cardiovascular exercise such as utilizing an elliptical, treadmill or stationary bike. The goal of the warm up is to increase your core temperature which in turn will warm up your skeletal muscles.

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The next step after cardiovascular warm up is perform dynamic warm up patterns. Dynamic warm up will loosen up the skeletal muscles further improving function and mobility which help the body breathe.

Some effective dynamic warm up exercises are: bodyweight squats, walking lunges, bird dogs, hip bridges and hip and shoulder circles. Days when it is hot and humid or bitterly cold it is imperative to conduct this warm up protocol, to hopefully prevent an asthmatic attack.

While we are exercising it is definitely important to know your physiological limitations.

Obviously to avoid unnecessary injury but also triggering your shortness of breath. Here is a very basic personal assessment tool. It is called The Talk Test.

If you can have a full conversation with someone while working out, then you are training at a low cardio pulmonary intensity. If you can have a conversation with someone but you have to catch your breath in between speaking, then you are experiencing a moderate intensity. If you cannot hold a conversation with someone because you are trying to focus on catching your breath, then you are at a vigorous intensity.

If you have exercise induced asthma, it is significantly safer to keep your training intensity at a low to moderate level until you can build your cardio pulmonary conditioning.

If you have any questions please speak to a health/fitness professional for clarification.

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