Exercise as it relates to Disease/Resistance Training for athletes with Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease and can be attributed to a combination of respiratory conditions. It involves inflammation of the pulmonary airways and bronchial hypersensitivity or airway hyperresponsivness (AHR) which results in airway obstruction.[1] Inflammation of the airways is caused by two things: plasma proteins exuded from airway vessels and mucus glycoproteins secreted from surface epithelial cells.[2] Bronchial hypersensitivity is caused by a variety of stimulants that induce an exaggerated constriction of the bronchioles [3]

Types of AsthmaEdit

There are many different strands of asthma which all have different triggers. Cough-Induced asthma, allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma and exercise-induced asthma are some common examples.[4] An asthma sufferer isn't limited to one trigger, a combination of stimuli can lead to an attack.


The causes of asthma are both genetic and environmental. The environment will play a role in whether or not an atopic individual will develop asthma. Genetic factors will determine how severe the inflammatory response.[5]

Signs and SymptomsEdit

Common signs and symptoms of asthma include trouble breathing, wheezing, faint whistling, tightness in chest and coughing at night or during exercise[6]


Asthma has a high comorbidity rate as it is a combination of conditions. Symptoms overlap with obstructive sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease,[7] emphysema[8] and rhinitis.[9] There is also evidence that severe asthma can lead to heightened anxiety and depression [10]

Benefits of Resistance TrainingEdit

  • Increased cardiopulmonary fitness[11]
  • Increased muscle strength and size which leads to more oxygen[12]
  • Increased muscular endurance
  • general health and wellbeing

Exercise RecommendationsEdit

Asthma sufferers may need to participate in an extended warm up, gradually increasing intensity throughout. Using an inhaler 15 minutes before exercise can help prevent symptoms. Breathing through the nose will help moisten and warm air before it reaches the bronchioles [13]

Further Readings and ResearchEdit

There is a substantial amount of evidence that resistance training can help asthma sufferers, however the clinical guidelines for exercising with asthma are very limited. More research is needed to realise its full potential and would be beneficial as a prevention.

Further Information


  1. Understanding asthma pathophysio... [Allergy Asthma Proc. 2003 Mar-Apr] - PubMed - NCBI . 2014. Understanding asthma pathophysio... [Allergy Asthma Proc. 2003 Mar-Apr] - PubMed - NCBI . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12776439. [Accessed 30 September 2014].
  2. BARNES, PETER J. "Pathophysiology of asthma." British journal of clinical pharmacology 42.1 (1996): 3-10.
  3. Hamid, Q, Shannon, J, Martin, J, 2005. PHYSIOLOGICAL BASIS OF RESPIRATORY DISEASE. 1st ed. United States of America: PMPH-USA.
  4. Health, A. (2014, August 1). Asthma Types- All Asthma Types Are Not the Same. Retrieved September 30, 2014, from http://asthma.about.com/od/adultasthma/a/asthmahub_types.htm - See more at: http://reffor.us/index.php#sthash.7fG13O7r.dpuf
  5. BARNES, PETER J. "Pathophysiology of asthma." British journal of clinical pharmacology 42.1 (1996): 3-10
  6. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 2010. Asthma Symptoms. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.acaai.org/allergist/asthma/symptoms/Pages/default.aspx. [Accessed 30 September 14].
  7. US National Library of Medicine. 2011. Asthma-related comorbidities. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21702660. [Accessed 30 September 14].
  8. Dodge, R., M. G. Cline, and B. Burrows. "Comparisons of asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis diagnoses in a general population sample." The American review of respiratory disease 133.6 (1986): 981-986.
  9. Leynaert, Bénédicte, et al. "Epidemiologic evidence for asthma and rhinitis comorbidity." Journal of allergy and clinical immunology 106.5 (2000): S201-S205.
  10. Katon, Wayne J., et al. "The relationship of asthma and anxiety disorders." Psychosomatic medicine 66.3 (2004): 349-355.
  11. Ram, F. S., et al. "Physical training for asthma." Cochrane Database Syst Rev 4 (2005).
  12. Rådegran, G., Eva Blomstrand, and Bengt Saltin. "Peak muscle perfusion and oxygen uptake in humans: importance of precise estimates of muscle mass." Journal of applied physiology 87.6 (1999): 2375-2380.
  13. American College of Sports Medicine. 2014. Exercise-Induced Asthma. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/exercise-induced-asthma.pdf. [Accessed 30 September 14].