Minimising The Impact Of Exercise On Asthma

Jun 26, 2014 | by AIF

So your client has asthma? Just ensure they have their puffer on them and they’ll be okay, right? Tanna Wells, Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness SA, discusses.

Asthma, although normally well controlled by the sufferer once diagnosed, can cause an elevation in anxiety when participating in huffy puffy’ exercise. It is important that you know the following when working with an asthmatic.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition where the airways are inflamed and therefore narrowed, affecting the amount of air inspired and expired with every breath.

Symptoms can be exacerbated in a number of different ways, such as;

  • Change of season or increased pollen
  • Dust or dirt particles
  • Pet/fur allergies
  • Aerosols and strong perfumes or chemicals
  • Altered immunity, including; sick, stressed or not sleeping
  • Certain foods
  • Physical exertion

An asthma attack differs to asthma as a chronic condition in the way that when the person experiences an attack they will notice rapid shortening or breath and inability to expire their breath; therefore disrupting their normal breathing patterns and potentially increasing their anxiety levels.

How to Minimise an Attack During Exercise

Asthmatics should have an asthma management plan set up with their doctor and either carry a preventative and/or a reliever, or a combination medication to manage their symptoms.

Many asthmatics will also know what triggers an increase in their symptoms and more importantly, an asthma attack; however Personal Trainers can assist their client by:

  • Allowing for an extended warm-up and cool-down to ensure a gradual increase of demand on the respiratory system and ability to identify a comfortable PRE (perceived rate of exertion).
  • If training outside, being aware of the weather, pollen count and state of the grassed area, and if it could be a hazard moving the session to a safer area.
  • Ensuring that the room is air-conditioned, but not below normal room temperature.
  • Teaching your client safe and effective breathing techniques; especially when under extreme physical exertion.
  • Choosing exercises that better promote good posture.

Dealing with an Asthma Attack

If your client has an asthma attack, first things first, remain clam. Your client doesn’t need you panicking; if anything, you panic will only make them panic and increase the severity of their symptoms.

Obtain the reliever puffer (the grey one known as Ventolin) and spacer, and follow the 4x4x4 method of; 1 puff into the spacer followed by 4 breaths. Repeat this 4 times and wait 4 minutes.

Ensure you client remains upright in a seated position even they may ask to lay down. Keeping them upright will encourage a deeper breath and better assist you with keeping open communication between you and your client.

If after 4 minutes your client hasn’t regained normal breathing patterns, continue to administer the 4x4x4 method and call the ambulance.

Hopefully this never happens to you, however if it does, at least you and your client will be prepared!

Safe training!



The Australian Institute of Fitness
The Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) is the largest and longest established fitness training organisation in Australia, with dynamic training methods and expert course coaches nationwide - spanning fitness, massage and nutrition. The AIF qualifies more fitness professionals than any other provider in Australia, as well as offering a broad range of continuing education courses (CEC), upskilling resources and partnership programs for existing industry.

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