How Exercise Can Improve Your Allergies and Asthma

The days are getting longer, flowers are starting to bloom, the weather is warming up and …ACHOO! Unfortunately, asthma and allergy triggers are making their seasonal appearance. Living in the Central Valley of California many individuals are beginning to feel the effects of seasonal allergies caused by pollen in the air and if you have allergies or asthma, symptoms can be twice as hard. Having a weak diaphragm can increase symptoms related to allergies and asthma. Below you will learn more about how to improve diaphragm strength. If you would like to get started on an exercise program to improve muscle strength targeted for those muscles important in breathing mechanics, contact Bryant Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy today to speak to our highly educated physical therapists and exercise specialist team!

What is a diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a thin skeletal muscle that sits at the base of the chest and separates the abdomen from the chest. It contracts and flattens when you inhale. This creates a vacuum effect that pulls air into the lungs. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and the air is pushed out of the lungs.

Diaphragm Muscle Location Picture 1 How Exercise Can Improve Your Allergies and Asthma

What is diaphragmatic breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing is intended to help you use the diaphragm correctly while breathing to:

  • Strengthen the diaphragm
  • Decrease the work of breathing by slowing your breathing rate
  • Decrease oxygen demand
  • Use less effort and energy to breathe


What are the symptoms of a weak diaphragm?

  • Abdominal pain
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the left shoulder or left side of the chest.
  • Respiratory distress.


What are the symptoms of Allergies and Asthma?

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness, pain or pressure

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Like any muscle, you can also strengthen your diaphragm with special exercises. Diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing is the best way to do this. It involves inhaling deeply and slowly through the nose so that your lungs fill with air as your belly expands. Along with strengthening your diaphragm, diaphragmatic breathing can also reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

Exercises related to diaphragmatic breathing can be done in a variety of exercise positions:

  • Standing
  • Quadruped (hands and knees)
  • Supine (Laying on your back)
  • Sitting


Having this variety makes it easy for anyone with allergies or asthma to perform the necessary breathing techniques to strengthen the diaphragm. For example, lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

IMG 40951 How Exercise Can Improve Your Allergies and Asthma

Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

IMG 40941 How Exercise Can Improve Your Allergies and Asthma

Note: You may notice an increased effort will be needed to use the diaphragm correctly. At first, you’ll probably get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become easy and automatic.


How often should you practice these exercises?

At first, practice this exercise 5-10 minutes about 3-4 times per day. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, and perhaps even increase the effort of the exercise by placing a book on your abdomen.


For more examples of exercises like the one described above, make sure to follow our Instagram and Facebook. For more information on Diaphragm Strengthening, contact Bryant Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Located in Atwater & Merced, CA




margarita How Exercise Can Improve Your Allergies and Asthma

Created by: Margarita Perez, Director of Public Health Program Developer

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