Search IconSearch
August 13, 2019/Health Conditions/Lung

8 Tips for Exercising Outdoors with Asthma

And what to do if you have an exercise-induced asthma attack

woman with asthma runs in the park

Going for a run outdoors in shorts and a T-shirt is one of the great joys of summer, right? For people with asthma, however, that relationship status is a bit more complicated.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

How can you safely exercise in the summer sun if you have asthma? Pulmonologist Emily Pennington, MD, gives her tips to take advantage of the season.

Is exercise good for asthma?

Exercise helps asthma in two ways, Dr. Pennington says. It increases:

  • Stamina: “Exercise improves your lung health and ability to do daily activities that normally make you short of breath, such as walking a long distance or up the stairs,” she explains.
  • Muscle strength: Stronger muscles make your body more efficient, so you can breathe more easily and do the activities you want to, she adds.

But while exercise helps improve asthma, it can also trigger symptoms. And without a plan in place, exercise can quickly take a turn for the worse.

Enter exercise-induced asthma, which is when physical activity causes the airways in your lungs to narrow. Symptoms generally begin between 5 and 20 minutes after starting an activity.

“There are things we can do to decrease or prevent your symptoms so you can exercise more easily,” says Dr. Pennington. “Speak with your doctor to put a plan in place for how to exercise safely.”

Exercise outside with asthma

Here are some other ways to play it smart and prevent exercise-induced asthma:

Check weather alerts. “For some patients, extreme temperatures — hot or cold — make it hard to breathe,” Dr. Pennington explains. “And sometimes the quick change in temperature when you leave air conditioning to go out in the heat makes breathing more difficult.”


Hot, humid weather can also increase the amount of pollution in the air, which can exacerbate asthma symptoms. So watch the forecast and air quality index when planning outdoor exercise.

Peruse pollen counts. There is such a thing as allergy-induced asthma, too. So stay inside if you have seasonal allergies and the pollen count is high.

Don’t forget your gear. “Your rescue inhaler is useless sitting at home while you’re out running a five-mile race,” Dr. Pennington says. “Make sure you have it so you can use it if needed.”

She advises using your rescue inhaler 15 minutes before starting an activity. If you feel short of breath while exercising, take a few puffs to get relief within 10 to 15 minutes.

“And if you’ve been prescribed a controller inhaler, make sure you’re using it as directed,” she stresses. “It will help decrease the inflammation in your lungs that causes symptoms.”

Take it slow. Don’t start running or riding your bike at full blast. Warm up first. Take the time to adjust your body to hot temperatures, especially if you are coming from an air-conditioned environment.

Timing is everything. Plan to exercise in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler outside.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Asthma or not, always make sure you’re getting enough H2O. “You’re outside. You’re sweating more. It’s hot. Make sure you are not getting dehydrated,” Dr. Pennington stresses.

Know your limits. If you need to take a break, do it. “Warm weather demands more energy because your skin is trying to cool you off and your muscles are working hard,” she explains. “The same activity that you could do inside without a problem might be more challenging outside.”

Safety first. Take your phone with you. Exercise with a friend. Stay close to home. If there is an emergency, you want to be able to get help quickly.

Dr. Pennington recommends exercising as much as feels comfortable. “If your asthma is well-controlled, then the recommendations are the same for everyone: 150 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise each week,” she says.

But if you are more symptomatic, start with a smaller goal of exercising once or twice a week. “Once you and your doctor get your asthma under better control, you can work up to exercising more often,” she says.

What to do if you experience an exercise-induced asthma attack

Dr. Pennington emphasizes the importance of having an action plan in place should you enter the danger zone. Coughing during or after exercise is one sign of an exercise-induced asthma attack.

Other symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath and a feeling of tightness in the chest. If you experience one or more of these signs, Dr. Pennington recommends following these steps to stay safe:

  1. Stop the activity. Give yourself a few minutes to catch your breath.
  2. Take two puffs from your rescue inhaler.
  3. If that doesn’t help, take two more puffs 15 to 20 minutes after the first dose.
  4. If you are still experiencing symptoms, seek help or call 911.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person doing a Bulgarian-split squat outside
June 17, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
10 Squat Variations to Add to Your Workout

Bulgarian split squats, hack squats and goblet squats are just a few of the moves you can try

Older person smiling, taking in the outdoors
June 13, 2024/Mental Health
Put Intention Behind Your Walking Meditation

While walking, be mindful of your body, your mind, your place in the world and all five of your senses as you pave a path forward, one step at a time

Person in a deep squat
June 13, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Here’s the Right Way To Do a Squat

Squat smart with proper technique, including a neutral spine, wide knees and an engaged core

People in gym doing cool down stretches
June 10, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Why You Shouldn’t Skip Cool Down Exercises

This important step gives your body time to return to its resting state while reducing muscle cramps, dizziness and injury

Person walking dog and person running in a park, with person sitting on a bench
June 5, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Walking vs. Running: Which Is Better for You?

The short answer? The best exercise is the one you’ll actually do

Hand holding cellphone with walking app, with feet walking and footprints
May 17, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Should You Aim To Walk 10,000 Steps a Day?

Walking is a great goal, but how many steps are best for you depends on factors like your fitness level and age

Person walking on walking pad at home office desk
May 16, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
What’s a Walking Pad — And Do They Really Work?

A walking pad is a simplified treadmill that can fit under your desk and help you get more movement in your day

Person stretching on floor mats in their home gym area
May 8, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Strength Finder: How To Create a Home Gym You’ll Use

First, reflect on your specific workout goals, and then pick and choose your fitness equipment

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims