Living With Asthma: Exercise-Induced Asthma, Diet and Support Communities

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Living With Asthma: Exercise-Induced Asthma, Diet and Support Communities

More than 25 million people in the U.S. are living with various types of asthma, including exercise-induced asthma. In addition to taking your medications, diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors can help you gain control of the condition. This can mean fewer attacks and a greater quality of life, not to mention fewer trips to the doctor. Certain types of asthma are triggered by activities or other outside influence, and can be improved by making a few small changes. Read on to see what you can do to control your asthma—no matter which type you have.

Exercise-induced asthma

While many asthmatics experience symptoms during exercise, this subtype is characterized by symptoms brought on by physical exertion. Symptoms usually occur 5-20 minutes after starting exercise, and are brought on by rapid breathing. While most people become short of breath and fatigued when exercising, people with exercise-induced asthma experience coughing, wheezing and hacking. In many cases, these symptoms will cut the activity short if they get out of hand.

Asthma is diverse, and it is possible to have only the exercise-induced type or a combination of types that include exercise-induced asthma. Even so, most asthma sufferers can exercise normally as part of a healthy lifestyle. If you have this specific type of asthma, check with your doctor about taking precautions when exercising. It may be as simple as using your regular bronchodilator just before working out.


Look no further than Olympians Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Amy Van Dyken or professional athletes such as Dennis Rodman and Jerome Bettis to know that you can enjoy an active lifestyle with asthma. Regular exercise is healthy for most people, and asthma sufferers are (usually) no exception. If your doctor has cleared you for activity, there’s no reason to let asthma hold you back.

Knowing what types of exercise to participate in can help you integrate activity more seamlessly into your life. Generally speaking, sports that involve short bursts of intermittent exertion—volleyball, baseball, gymnastics, wrestling—are better for kids and teens with asthma. For adults, options include biking, walking and aerobics classes you can take at your own pace. Swimming is also usually good for any age because it involves breathing in warm, moist air.

Cold-weather activities such as skiing, snowshoeing and hockey may pose problems for asthmatics, although many still participate fully. It helps to warm up before enjoying these sports, and to wear a mask or a scarf over your mouth that warms up the air you breathe. If your asthma is exacerbated by cold air, talk to your doctor first and keep your rescue medications with you while enjoying these activities. Some cities may be better than others for asthmatics, as air quality may also play into your symptoms while exercising outside.


There are no miracle foods for asthmatics, but some research indicates that eating a healthy diet may decrease asthma symptoms. Although the jury is still out, research has indicated that foods high in antioxidants, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids are thought to improve lung function. Such foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish.

One established link, however, is the effect of obesity on asthma. Obese people with asthma have lower lung performance than their normal-weight counterparts, whether children or adults. This means that no matter your age, eating a nutritious diet can help you manage your asthma by keeping your weight in the healthy range.

Some studies show that consuming caffeine may modestly reduce inflammation in the airways for up to four hours. It’s important to note that this effect is small, and pales in comparison to the effect of a rescue inhaler. You may have also heard about vitamin D supplementation being beneficial for asthma, or you may have heard it could interfere with your inhaled steroids. Research on this is still inconclusive, so talk to your doctor before purchasing vitamin D supplements. The best way to manage your asthma with your food and beverage intake is to eat a healthier diet each day.

Support communities

One of the best ways to deal with asthma is to talk to others who know what you’re going through. Luckily, most areas have support groups and classes, but there are also communities online you can join for support.

The American Lung Association hosts educational classes for adults and children with asthma, providing education and tools to help you, your child or your child’s school improve symptom control. Another resource is the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, which has a number of support options for people of all ages. If you really want to get involved in the asthma community, the AAFA can help you start your own group as well.

More Asthma Resources:

Visit our asthma resources page here.

Runner catching her breath image via Shutterstock.
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