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9 Tips For Running With Asthma (How I learned To Run)

9 Tips For Running With Asthma (How I Learned To Run)

A whopping 80% of asthmatics have exercise-induced asthma. I am among that 80%. When I was 15, I was not allowed to run: I was even excused from gym class. Today, I run four times a week. I run and run all I want. So, how did I do it? How did I learn to run? Here’s how I did it. Here are my 9 tips to help you run with asthma.

Tips for running with asthma

  1. Get your asthma under control. Here I did a lot of research. I kept up on all the new medicines on the market. I read up on them. I worked with my doctor and was willing to try new medicines. This is what lead to trials with medicines like Advair and Singulair. Today I take both these medicines every day of my life. This has helped me gain good control of my asthma. So, work with your doctor. Take your medicine as prescribed. Get as good of control of your disease as possible.
  2. Exercise in warm air. Cold air doesn’t hold much water. So, as this cool, dry air beats on your respiratory tract, it pounds mast cells. These mast cells release chemicals that cause asthma symptoms. When I ran on cold days, my symptoms included chest tightness. My chest actually feels itchy. Phlegm increases. Trouble breathing usually begins when I decide to stop. To solve this problem, I decided not to run outside unless the temperature was 50 degrees or higher. If it’s cold out, I run inside. I run on the treadmill.
  3. Learn to pace yourself. When I started doing this I was eager to pick up the pace. So, I started sprinting after only a few minutes of warming up. This did not work for me. It resulted in asthma symptoms. So, I learned that I had to pace myself. I usually warm up for about five minutes. Then I pick up the pace as appropriate. Over the course of time, I learned I was able to run faster and faster, but never as fast as my friends. I was fine with this, as I was just happy I was running at all.
  4. Don’t worry what others think. This is key. I used to run with my wife, and she would outrun me. I ran with a friend, and he did three laps to my one. I told myself not to let this kind of thing bother me. I had asthma. It was awesome that I was even doing this. I decided to keep running at my own pace, even when I was running with friends. Even when my friends mock how slow I run, I keep doing it at my own pace.
  5. Spend a few minutes warming up. As noted above, it’s best if you warm up for at least five minutes before doing any aerobics. Some asthma experts recommend warming up ten minutes prior to doing aerobics. You can experiment to find what works best for you. This is important because you’ll want to gradually warm your lungs up.
  6. Tell your friends your asthma rules. When you run with your friends, it’s important that they know your limitations. Make sure they know you need to warm up. Make sure they know you’ll need to pace yourself. I say this based on my own personal experience. I ran with a friend once, and he got off to a quick run rather fast. I tried to keep pace, but it backfired. So, just make sure, if you’re going to run with friends, that they are aware of your limitations.
  7. Gradually pick up the pace Anyone who has ever prepared for a marathon knows that you gradually increase your speed. You gradually increase your distance. When you have asthma this is even more so important. The more you run, the better capable your body gets at running. The more you run, the more tolerant your lungs and heart get to exertion.
  8. Know when to stop. I had a friend a few years ago with asthma. She was a runner. She ended up with a really bad cold. She kept running despite this. She was diagnosed with pneumonia. She kept running. She ended up having a severe asthma attack. She was admitted to the hospital for a week. She was not able to run for months. She lost all her progress. She said she learned her lesson. I heed this lesson. If I have symptoms of asthma, If I have a cold, I don’t run. Or, sometimes I do run. But, if I do, I slow down my pace for that day. Sometimes I just walk. Yes, this does prevent me from accomplishing my goal for that week. But, taking a day off today is better than getting really sick and having to take weeks off.
  9. Don’t worry what people say. Yeah! I’m repeating myself here. But I’m doing it intentionally because this is important. My wife sometimes teases me. My friends do the same. They tell me that I don’t run I jog. My friend walks alongside me as I run. However, they all end up saying things like, “We’re just impressed that you run!” And that’s about it. Sure, you may not be able to keep up with your friends. But you’re doing it. That’s impressive in and of itself.

Other exercises can help too

Most asthma experts agree asthmatics should stay active. This is true no matter how severe your asthma is. Some of my asthma friends enjoy walking. That’s fine! That’s great! Sometimes I walk too. But if you want to try running, perhaps my tips will help you accomplish your goal.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • BillSwan
    2 years ago

    A few other suggestions:

    1. You can take a prophylactic dose or two or salbutamol (albuterol in the States) just before your run. Especially for exercise induced asthma.

    2. Find ways to improve your efficiency. The more efficient a runner you are the less stress on your lungs. I found out about forefoot running a long time ago. Much less stress on your body and a much more efficient running style.

    3. Run to music with a good cadence (85-92 beats per minute is my sweet spot). This gives you shorter strides and less stress. It also helps regulate your breathing. Typically people run with too slow a cadence. This leads to longer strides and more stress on the body.

    4. If your asthma is not exercise induced you can often run in the cold and may not need to warm up as much. I just came in from 10 K in minus 11 celsius. I never warm up.

    5. And John is right. If you go for a run and you don’t have it in you, there’s no shame in walking.

  • mrmody9
    2 years ago

    Appreciate you sharing this, John.
    Need to visit Advair with my medical circuit.
    Last time this was visited, the out-of-pocket expense was a bit high.
    On the exercise front, need to add walking, jogging, running and swimming to the mix.
    Baby steps…

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks. You might also want to talk to your doctor about Symbicort. That’s another option similar to Advair. And, for some reason, the copay is $80 less than Advair. Go figure! Swimming is something I’d like to add to my mix. That’s another exercise ideal for asthmatics. Yes! Baby Steps! Thanks for sharing. John.

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