Pediatric Asthma: Exercise and Obesity


Exercise can make asthma worse. Symptoms may include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or a feeling of chest tightness during or after exercise. Some children are not aware of these symptoms, but know that they tire easily and cannot do as much as their friends.

In most children, prolonged exercise (at least five minutes) is necessary to cause asthma symptoms. Despite this, children with asthma should be encouraged to exercise. Research shows that they can benefit greatly from exercise — physically and in terms of self-esteem and confidence. Participation in swimming, soccer, bowling, basketball, rollerblading and bike riding are only some of the activities children with asthma can enjoy. It is encouraging to know that even some Olympic athletes have asthma.

Actions You Can Take

  • If exercise makes your child’s asthma worse, your doctor may prescribe inhaled medication, which blocks exercise induced asthma. When taken 10-15 minutes before exercise, this “pre-treatment” is effective in preventing asthma symptoms. Older children may be responsible for using a pre-treatment before exercise as prescribed.
  • A child with exercise-induced asthma needs to learn to determine when they are having asthma symptoms during or after exercise. If coughing or wheezing begins, the child should take a short rest and follow the Asthma Action Plan.
  • A child can warm-up before exercise.
  • It is very important that children learn to pace themselves.



Population studies have shown relationships between obesity and the development or even severity of asthma. Obese children may develop respiratory symptoms similar to asthma. Oftentimes, it is difficult to determine if a child’s trouble breathing is a result of obesity itself and/or asthma. Therefore, a treatment plan to reduce weight in obese children is encouraged to improve asthma control.

    More Exercise and Obesity Information
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