story title image

7 Exercises for Asthma Sufferers

Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath — people with asthma know how fast an attack can derail exercise. In Tennessee, more than 500,000 people live with that reality. But there are exercises people with asthma can do to make an attack less likely. Check out the seven options below to get your heart rate up, build strength and, in some cases, even help you develop resistance to asthma symptoms in the future.

1. Swimming

Doctors agree that swimming is an ideal exercise for asthma sufferers. The moist air at the pool soothes inflamed lungs, and the activity itself helps strengthen upper body muscles, which you use to breathe. Building upper body strength may even lessen your asthma symptoms over time. Pro tip: Try the butterfly stroke for a more intense workout for your lungs and arms.

2. Yoga

Yoga’s smooth, even movements are optimal for asthmatics because they tone the body while helping control breathing. Poses such as Plank and Upward-Facing Dog are great for building upper body strength around the lungs, while Bridge and Side Plank will help open the chest and increase flexibility. Studies have even shown that asthmatics who practice yoga may be able to decrease attacks and use less asthma-controlling medication.

3. Walking

Walking seems simple when it comes to physical activity, but simplicity is one of the reasons it’s something people stick with — you can do it almost anywhere, any time, and discover some cool things along the way. Walking briskly or uphill can burn up to 200 calories per hour depending on your weight, and it helps improve your lung capacity.

In Tennessee, many cities have public walking trails, and the four major cities have them along their rivers. In Memphis, Riverfit has six exercise stations spread out along Tom Lee Park, which is ideal because it fosters short bursts of activity with resting periods in between. (You can find other walking trails across the state here.)


Riverfit also has a volleyball court, which leads to:

4. Volleyball

Another exercise where activity is followed by periods of rest, volleyball can help you regulate your breathing while still elevating your heart rate. Serving, setting and striking don’t involve a huge amount of movement, and the game allows you to rely on a partner or team to pick up the slack if you’re feeling winded.

5. Baseball or softball

Baseball and softball are good ways to work in aerobic exercise without feeling overwhelmed. Rather than constantly running up and down a field like in soccer, the breaks between hitting and pitching allow time to recover, and both actions will strengthen your arms and upper body. Find a local adult sports league to try your hand at a team sport.

6. Golf

Walking 18 holes is great low-impact exercise, but even playing the back nine will benefit your body. If you don’t want to commit to a whole round of golf, try the practice range — it will help build the all-important upper body muscles while allowing you refractory periods in between shots.

7. Tennis

For those who don’t feel they’ve had a workout unless they work up a sweat, tennis is a slightly more strenuous option. Short bursts of activity are followed by resting periods, so your lungs won’t get overworked, and it helps you build upper body strength through swings and serves.

Reminder: For all outdoor activities, make sure to check the air quality for your area for the day, and try to exercise indoors when the temperature drops below freezing as cold, dry air can increase the likelihood of symptoms. If you must be outside in colder weather, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf to warm the air before you inhale.

To explore more outdoor activities in Tennessee click here.

Related Content