Cycle sport and asthma

01 April 2014

According to the World Health Organisation over 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. There are 1.1 million children with asthma in the UK alone. Mark Wyer looks at how cycling can be a great way to manage the condition, and how racing with asthma can be achieved.

As a coach I regularly work with children who have asthma, and it’s great to see them training & competing regularly and overcoming this disease. Asthma UK is the UK’s leading asthma charity. Their website is and it has lots of valuable advice.

Asthma UK recommends regular exercise for general health and to help manage the condition. On its website it states “If exercise continues to trigger your asthma it probably means that your asthma isn’t as well-controlled as it could be, so see your doctor or asthma nurse as soon as possible to see if things can be improved”. They also emphasize the importance of a good warm-up to help avoid asthma attacks.

Cycling is one of the activities that they recommend for people with asthma. Vigorous cycling is a great aerobic exercise that stimulates lung function improvements.

Of course, exercise can be one of the things that triggers asthma. Again the advice is to exercise but follow their tips to avoid an attack. These include using an inhaler before exercise, gradually increasing your fitness levels, performing a good warm–up, and always having your inhaler handy when exercising.

If your child is attending cycling coaching sessions, always make the coach aware that he or she is asthmatic. Obviously it’s important to ensure they have their inhaler handy. If your child wears a cycling jersey with back pockets it makes this easier.

Rider Case Study

Noah Field of CC Ashwell suffers badly from asthma, and he believes that cycling to keep fit with regular training helps him manage the condition. He started out riding cyclocross as an Under 12 (Youth C) three seasons ago. He has made steady progress since then from finishing midway down the field to finishing near the top of the Under 14 category in Eastern Region cyclocross races. Last winter he also stepped up to compete in national-level events too. As well as cyclocross, he takes part in grass track racing, road racing, and mountain biking at regional level.

I asked him how he copes with asthma and cycling:-

I have had asthma since birth and it has been linked to my allergies to dairy and certain types of pollen. Usually when exercising hard it presents itself but it’s made worse at certain times of the year (mainly Spring and Summer) when different pollens are present. I believe increased training and cycling has generally strengthened my respiratory system. I control the asthma with an inhaler, and I usually take one before a race. On a couple of occasions when I haven’t done this I’ve had to stop during the race which has lost me time, but it has meant that I have still been able to finish.

Mark Wyer has worked in Cycle Coaching and Development for over 15 years. He currently works for British Cycling as a Go-Ride Coach in the Eastern Region and is a Level 3 Road and Time Trial Coach as well as holding various Level 2 awards. He is also a Regional Cyclo-Cross Commissaire, judges at races and regularly organises cycling events.

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1 response to:

Cycle sport and asthma

  1. Linda Cantelo
    April 8, 2014

    My 11yr old daughter has asthma which is generally controlled successfully with inhalers. Over the winter she had a successful cyclocross season, particularly in the more technical races which required skill more than straight line speed. She has struggled to compete on an open track (Mountbatten at Portsmouth) at a fast pace when the weather is cold, but on an indoor track she can compete with her peers. Cycling has undoubtedly improved her overall fitness and ability to control her breathing. Her asthma medication is regularly adjusted by the doctor to accommodate her changing requirements and the level of salbutamol required has recently been reduced .

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