Considered one of the most common respiratory diseases in both children and adults, asthma is a condition in which the nasal passages swell, narrow, and produce excess mucus. This causes wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. An asthma attack is typically triggered by stress, exercise, allergies, or environmental irritants such as smoke, pollen, or pollution.


If you are a personal trainer or fitness professional, it’s important to know that if your client has asthma, there is a good chance he/she may experience asthma attacks during exercise. This is referred to as exercise-induced asthma (EIA).

If an EIA attack occurs during exercise, it typically happens early in the workout session, and is followed by a period of about 1-4 hours in which another attack is very unlikely. This is called the refractory period, and can be an important component of your strategy when planning workouts for your clients with EIA.  Symptoms usually appear within 5-20 minutes after beginning an exercise session, so have the client perform an extended warm up. This may bring about mild symptoms, but will then most likely be followed by an extended symptom-free period when you can delve into the heat of the training session.

Throughout the session, encourage the client to breathe through the nose rather than the mouth. With nasal breathing, the sinuses filter, warm, and moisten the air before it enters the lungs; whereas with mouth breathing, the air that enters the lungs is colder, drier, and full of potential irritants. Be sure to encourage ample fluid consumption as well. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the client drinks at least every 10-15 minutes. At the end of the session, build in time for an extended cool-down to allow breathing to fully return to normal.

Workout for an EIA Client:

  • 15-20 minutes: Warm up on the treadmill or stationary bicycle
  • 30 minutes: Mild-intensity interval training
  • 2 minutes cardio
  • 1 set (8-12 reps) lower body strength exercise (such as squats, lunges, or leg press)
  • 1 set (8-12 reps) upper body strength exercise (such as push-ups, pull-ups, bench press, upright rows, or shoulder press)
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • 1 minute of abdominals (such as crunches on stability ball, isometric plank, or reverse curls)
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Repeat 3 times, or until 30 minutes is up
  • 15 minutes: Cool down and stretch
  • As a fitness professional, it is important to know if your clients have EIA so you can work out a routine for them accordingly.