Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
recovering from asthma exacerbation

Slightly Knocked Down But Not Knocked Out

Just like riding a bike, it was time for me to get back on the physical activity machine.

Recovering from an asthma exacerbation

I find that one of the worst parts of recovering from exacerbation is the road back to physical activity. Being involved in physical activity, sports, and coaching is a large part of my life.

This last exacerbation was fairly brutal and really zapped me of energy, breath, and the ability to get physical activity in without making things worse. I am finally in a place where I feel healthy enough to rejoin my routine. I usually find ways to get a walk or swim in. Walks were becoming my new best friend; however, the swim was a bit of a tougher endeavor. My cough with sputum was especially pesky this round and not so swim-friendly.

My go-to plan for recovery is:

  1. Ensuring that you are cleared to participate

    Even though exercise does indeed do your body good, you also want to ensure that you might not make things worse or put yourself in a dangerous situation. It is best to check with your doctor if you have any doubts.

  2. Slow and Steady

    I start with a small segment every day. Even 20-30 minutes of physical activity does a lot of good. Often post-exacerbation, a trip down the street or even around the block can be a good way to start. You can always progress from there.

  3. Be prepared for two steps forward, three steps back

    When easing back into physical activity, one day may be good, one day could be challenging. You will make gains and may have some setbacks. I encourage you to stay with it – it will get easier.

  4. Set small goals for yourself

    I set small, attainable goals at the beginning. I will often do a series of short swim sets for a few days at each time range (less than 10 minutes, 10-12 minutes, going up from there). This helps me get back into the rhythm and then work myself back up to my usual time sets.

  5. Don’t be afraid to modify your activity

    Remember, progressions are good and building blocks are the foundations. If you usually do an activity with weights, try doing them without! Modifying time and intensity can help you build your routine and even discover new ones.

  6. Try a new activity

    Perhaps you are not feeling like you are up to a zumba class. Why not try tai chi or a walk?

  7. When in doubt, recruit a buddy!

    I personally know that it easy to talk yourself out of doing something. Especially if you are concerned, a buddy can help keep you accountable and in good cheer.

Don’t forget to prepare for recovery!

It is also important that you have the usual bases covered, warm-up, hydration, proper attire including footwear, and of course your rescue inhaler. I am notorious for leaving my inhaler in the locker. It certainly would not be helping me in an emergency while locked in a locker. Don’t be me in this scenario!

I would love to hear about your favorite activities or tips and tricks that you use. Please feel free to share in the comments below!

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.


  • Shellzoo
    6 months ago

    I have allergic asthma but my instructions from my provider do include using my rescue inhaler prior to exercise. I did not realize that was in my instructions at first but it made a huge difference for me. I also have learned steps, running and tennis are out but walking, hiking and yoga work great for me. Once I accepted that I don’t have to be completely winded with exercise, I have been better about participating in it.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo, and thanks for this post. Glad to hear that by remaining compliant you are able to do the level of exercise that suits your condition best. We appreciate your input. Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi again, Shellzoo – it certainly can be its own kind of challenging, that’s for sure! But with all these wonderful medications,knowledge and experience, we can maintain enough control to do our own brand of exercising.
    Keep up the good work!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    6 months ago

    Exercise for people with asthma is certainly more challenging isn’t it? Glad that with a good plan we can also be more active.

  • emusing
    6 months ago

    I am person who exercises most days, and flare ups always mess up my training routine. I have learned to ease back in. One doctor had me monitor when my resting HR was under 80 (or was it 70? It was a long time ago!) before I could reenter the world of working out. My usual resting rate is in the low 60s or high 50s.

    I have learned I will get better, not as quickly as one wants, but I’ll get there. And in no time, I’m back to my usual exercise regimen. It’s frustrating waiting to go back and to get to where I was, though!

    My activities include weightlifting, yoga and treadmill or elliptical.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi emusing and thanks for your post. Sometimes having this condition can derail our planned schedules/activities and exercise programs are no exception. It does sound like you have this under control, though – adjusting to these changes can be somewhat challenging. We’re appreciative of your input here in our community. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Poll