Can People With Asthma Play Sports?

When people with asthma follow their asthma action plan, they can play sports — and they can be really good at them! Lots of elite athletes have asthma, and some have won Olympic gold medals.

How Can Sports Help People With Asthma?

Even if you don't want to be a professional athlete, you benefit from exercising and playing sports. Sports keep you fit. They help you to stay at a healthy weight. Exercise also strengthens the breathing muscles in your chest. If you have asthma, this is very important because it can help your lungs work better.

Sports have great emotional benefits too: Exercising causes the body to produce endorphins, body chemicals that can help people feel more peaceful and happy. Exercise helps some people sleep better. It can even help depression because people who feel strong and powerful can see themselves in a better light.

Which Sports Are Best for People With Asthma?

Some sports and activities can be better choices for people with asthma. Golf, yoga, and gentle biking are less likely to trigger asthma flare-ups. Sports like baseball, football, gymnastics, and shorter track and field events can be good choices too.

Some sports may be more challenging for people with asthma. These include endurance sports like long-distance running or cycling or sports that demand a lot of energy without a lot of rest time (like soccer and basketball). Cold-weather sports like cross-country skiing or ice hockey also can be difficult.

But that doesn't mean you can't do these sports if you truly enjoy them. Many athletes with asthma have found that with proper training and the right dose and use of medicine, they can play any sport they want.

How to Play It Safe

Before playing sports, your asthma must be under control. In other words, you shouldn't be having lots of flare-ups. The best way to get asthma under control is by following your action plan and taking all prescribed asthma medicines as your doctor directed.

If you take long-term control medicine, you'll need to use it even when you feel OK. Skipping these daily medicines can make symptoms worse.

Have your quick-relief medicine with you at all times, even during workouts. That way you can take it if you have a flare-up. Some people need to use quick-relief medicine right before exercise to prevent flare-ups. Your doctor will let you know if that's the case for you.

People who have exercise-induced asthma (EIA) get flare-ups only when they're active. So they also might have to take asthma medicine before any kind of strenuous activity.

Talk with your doctor about your plans to play sports or work out. Your doctor might add workout strategies to your asthma action plan. These could include:

  • skipping outdoor workouts when pollen or mold counts are high
  • wearing a scarf or ski mask when training outside during the winter
  • breathing through your nose instead of your mouth while exercising
  • making time for a careful warm-up and cool-down

Make sure your coach and teammates know about your asthma. That way they'll understand when you need to stop working out or have a flare-up. After a while, you'll become good at listening to your body so you'll know how to avoid or handle asthma problems at a game or practice.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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