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Can People With Asthma Play Sports?

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.

It can be a challenge at times for people with asthma to play some sports, like those that take a lot of energy with no rest breaks, or cold-weather sports. But that doesn't mean they can't. 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 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.

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 an anti-inflammatory medicine every day (sometimes called controller, maintenance, or long-term control medicine), you'll need to use it even when you feel OK. Skipping these daily medicines can make asthma symptoms worse.

Have medicine available for quick relief of symptoms at all times (sometimes called quick-relief, rescue, or fast-acting medicine), even during workouts. That way you can take it if you have a flare-up. Some people who have exercise-induced asthma (EIA) need to use medicine right before exercise to prevent flare-ups. Your doctor will let you know if that's the case for you.

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 depend on your asthma triggers and 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.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Feb 1, 2024

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