You might be out of shape or your allergies may be flaring up. But another possible cause is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.

What is Exercise-induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB)?

When you exercise, do you cough, wheeze, run out of breath or feel chest tightness? If so, you may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), a narrowing of the airways following physical activity. Most people with asthma have EIB, which is why it’s sometimes called exercise-induced asthma. Yet, not everyone with EIB necessarily has asthma.

Exercise Breathing - Masterfile

What triggers EIB?

Breathing in cool, dry air probably triggers EIB, say experts. When you exercise, you breathe fast through the mouth instead of the nose, where air is warmed and moistened before entering the lungs. Other possible triggers include air pollution, pollen and respiratory infections.

Does having EIB mean I can’t exercise?

No, but the key to staying well is keeping EIB under control. You’ll want to see a doctor, such as an allergist, immunologist or pulmonologist for diagnosis and treatment with medication.

Your doctor can also offer individual exercise guidelines. Some general tips to reduce your symptoms:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking water
  • Warm up before exercise
  • Cool down afterwards
  • Make adjustments, as needed: for example, spend more time warming up and cooling down, lower the intensity of your workout, and increase the number of rest periods during activity.

What are the best and worst exercises for people with EIB?

Activities that involve only short bursts of exercise or intermittent activity are usually better tolerated. Here’s a short list of good choices:

  • walking
  • volleyball
  • gymnastics
  • baseball
  • golf
  • swimming (although pool chemicals may be irritating)

Less well-tolerated sports:

  • distance running
  • soccer
  • basketball
  • hockey
  • ice-skating
  • cross-country skiing

With proper management of EIB, you don’t have to give up on an active lifestyle.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

American College of Sports Medicine

Asthma & Allergy Foundation

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 03 Aug 2012

Last Modified: 17 Oct 2014