09 December 2022

Top 10 Fitness Activities for People with Asthma

June 16, 2016

You wouldn’t naturally pair exercise and asthma together, but it’s high-time the lingering myths were laid firmly to rest. It’s proven that if your asthma is well-controlled, there’s no reason why you can’t exercise – and it certainly hasn’t stopped the medal-winning likes of Laura Trott and Paula Radcliffe from achieving sporting greatness.


In fact, exercise can benefit your asthma. It’s great for your lung capacity and can help you manage your weight so there’s physically less pressure on your chest. It also keeps your immune system revved up, which can help with fighting off colds and flu (common triggers of asthma). There are multiple mind and mood benefits too, and when you’re feeling happy and confident, you’re more likely to manage your asthma better.

It’s natural to feel wary of exercise if you have asthma – particularly if you haven’t been active for a while. But with a few small adjustments there should be nothing holding you back. At Asthma UK, we recommend choosing an activity that inspires you, suits your fitness level and fits easily into your life.

Here’s our pick of the most asthma-friendly fitness activities:

  • Yoga

Yoga is a total mind-body workout that can be particularly beneficial if you have asthma. It’s not as intense as other forms of strength training and can even help to relieve stress. Plus, studies show yoga breathing techniques might reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack and make you react less to certain triggers.

  • Walking

Walking is particularly asthma-friendly because although it has countless body benefits it won’t leave you feeling breathless. Plus, you can do it anywhere, at any time! Just remember to plan your walks around your asthma triggers. For example, if your asthma is triggered by pollution, it might be best to avoid busy roads.

  • Cycling

As another low-impact, accessible aerobic exercise, cycling is great for people with asthma. Track and road cyclist, Laura Trott has asthma, and says she started cycling at a young age to make her lungs stronger and help her breathing.

  • Swimming

While its aerobic benefits are a boost for your lungs, the warm, moist conditions of indoor heated pools can also make breathing more comfortable. Just be aware that chlorine can be a trigger for asthma in some people; although it didn’t stop Karen Pickering, who has exercise-induced asthma, winning 35 major championship medals.


  • Running

Be inspired by the legendary Paula Radcliffe, who was diagnosed with asthma at 14. Running is great if you want to push your fitness levels, but don’t forget to protect yourself from asthma triggers when outside. Wrapping a scarf around your nose and mouth will stop you breathing in cold air, whilst wraparound sunglasses may help to prevent pollen getting in our eyes.

  • Tai chi

Tai chi involves slow, gentle movements and focused breathing, which could help to improve how your lungs work and combat stress. Some studies suggest that tai chi breathing techniques can help to ease asthma symptoms and make them easier to control.

  • Strength training

Strength training tends to be an indoor activity so you can keep fit without worrying about triggers such as pollen, pollution and cold air. As it’s primarily an anaerobic form of exercise, done in short, intense spurts, using weights to build and tone your muscles also won’t put too much pressure on your lungs.

  • Roller derby

Having support is really important for people with asthma and this is what brought Team Wheezy together. The roller derby girls all have asthma and their shared experiences have helped them improve their fitness levels. Other supportive team sports you could try include rounders, netball and softball.


  • Badminton

Badminton rallies involve lots of quick lunges, side-stepping, diving and ball-hitting. After each one you can spend a few moments catching your breath. There’s less running around compared to other racquet sports such as tennis and squash, so it’s perfect for people with asthma!

  • Pilates

Pilates, like yoga, involves slow, gentle movements that won’t leave you out of breath. The breathing techniques will also help you to relax and ease any stress, which is really important for managing your asthma well.

Asthma and Exercise – Things to Remember

There are a few things to remember for exercising safely with asthma:

  • Always carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you.
  • Keep your asthma action plan to hand so you know what to do if your asthma symptoms come on.
  • Tell people you’re exercising with that you have asthma, and where you keep your reliever inhaler.
  • Warm up before you exercise so you can prepare your body – particularly your lungs – for activity.
  • If you’re exercising outside, take care to avoid triggers such as pollen, cold air and pollution.

If you get symptoms during exercise, it could be a sign that your asthma isn’t well-managed; book an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse so they can check you’re on the right asthma medicines, taking your inhalers in the right way, and using an up-to-date written asthma action plan.

Asthma UK exists to stop asthma attacks and ultimately, cure asthma. Find out more about exercising with asthma or contact our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) to speak to one of our friendly asthma nurses.

The Women’s Sports Magazine






You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Select a sport

Find out how to get started, training plans and expert advice.