Should You Exercise With Seasonal Allergies?
When itching, sneezing, and sniffling leave you feeling like you can’t give it your all, it’s normal to wonder whether or not working out with seasonal allergies is a good idea—especially when it means immersing yourself in pollen season triggers like ragweed pollen, grass pollen, and pine pollen. However, physical activity brings with it numerous benefits for your mental and physical health, from improving your cardiovascular health to reducing stress (the latter of which may actually worsen allergy symptoms if left unchecked, according to one study1). Therefore, it’s important not to give up on exercise entirely during allergy season, but rather, focus on finding the right tools and workouts to suit your needs.
Does Working Out Help With Allergies?
With such an abundance of health benefits, regular exercise is one of the best steps you can take to support good health. And fortunately, everyone can benefit from the right type of personalized exercise routine—regardless of gender, age, physical ability, or other factors. Although exercise may help to better equip your body to deal with allergy symptoms, by improving cardiovascular health and overall health, it’s also important to remember that the relationship between allergies and exercise is an individual one that varies from person to person. Seasonal allergies are caused by numerous triggers that can affect each person differently. Therefore, a doctor or allergist is always best-suited to offer a proper diagnosis and answer any questions you may have about exercise and allergies.
What’s the Best Outdoor Exercise for Seasonal Allergies?
Knowing your allergy triggers (and how to best manage them) can help you live your greatness by choosing the right types of “allergy-friendly” exercises during allergy season. For example, if your triggers are largely airborne (such as ragweed pollen), you might enjoy exploring some static, low-speed activities where there will be less allergens flying towards your face. If grass triggers allergy flare-ups during pollen season, you can opt for grass-free exercises like swimming or kayaking instead. With a bit of creativity, there are plenty of activities to enjoy outdoors that won’t leave you feeling limited or left out.
Seasonal allergies can also trigger asthma-like symptoms, such as shortness of breath, which are caused by a tightening of the airways as you inhale allergens. Also known as allergic asthma,* this condition occurs in approximately 60% of Americans with asthma.2 In cases like this, it may be ideal to stick to medium- to low-impact activities that focus on light, gradual movements, like brisk walking, hiking, recreational biking, pilates, or yoga. Vigorous outdoor exercises that cause heavy breathing can potentially worsen symptoms by simply causing you to push yourself too hard. If you suspect you may have asthma or asthma-like symptoms related to your allergies, consult with your doctor or an allergist for an official diagnosis.
Remember to include a warm-up and cool-down
Give your body a chance to acclimate to the outdoor environment by always including a proper warm-up (for approximately six to 10 minutes), followed by a cool-down period when your workout is over. If you’re an allergy sufferer who is unsure of your health status, are pregnant, facing other health complications, or just beginning your exercise journey, it’s always best to speak with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program to ensure it’s the right step for your well-being.
Tips for Exercising With Seasonal Allergies
Having seasonal allergies doesn’t mean that your workout regimen has to be strictly limited to a gym or your living room. If you suffer from outdoor allergies, following the right precautions—such as knowing when and where to exercise, for instance—can help. Below, we’re sharing some tips to help you stay ahead of seasonal allergies so that you don’t have to give up on exercising outdoors.
1. Identify your allergy triggers
The most common outdoor allergy triggers in the U.S. include tree, grass, and weed pollen, as well as mold spores. Understanding which outdoor triggers are causing your seasonal allergy symptoms is key. Your doctor can help you put together a list of triggers, based on allergy test results, that will help you adjust your outdoor workouts most effectively. That way, you can plan to exercise indoors on days when your known triggers will be at their highest levels, and head outside when the chance of an allergy flare-up is lower.
2. Check the weather before heading outside
Always check the forecast before heading outside. Fluctuations in humidity, wind, and temperatures, as well as climate change in general, can all impact pollen counts (how much pollen is in the air at a given time). On days when pollen counts are at their highest—such as dry and windy days when pollen travels easily through the air—you may want to opt for indoor exercise instead. Alternately, according to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, the best time to head outdoors if you suffer from pollen allergies is during or immediately after a rainstorm, or when it is cloudy and windless.3 This is because rain can help wash pollen away and keep it from moving around, which can have a positive effect on your allergy symptoms.
3. Choose the best time for your workout
You’ll also want to consider the optimal time for your workout. Typically, the worst time of the day for pollen is during the mid-to-late morning hours (typically between 5 A.M. and 10 A.M.), after the morning dew dries. An evening or early-morning workout may be a good option for seasonal allergy sufferers, when dew lowers pollen counts. For assistance with planning your exercise schedule, visit websites like the National Allergy Bureau or Pollen.com to research pollen counts and weather forecasts ahead of time. Or, simply enter your zip code into our pollen forecasting tool at the bottom of this page for even quicker results.
4. Take allergy medication as directed
Taking allergy medicine consistently and as directed—per the product’s label or by a healthcare provider—at the first sign of symptoms can help relieve seasonal allergies when exercising outdoors. Your physician or allergist can help you choose the best antihistamine to support your preferred outdoor activities.
5. Wear protective clothing
Try adding some protective items to your exercise attire to help prevent allergens from entering your eyes, nose, or mouth, such as wraparound sunglasses, a hat, or a bandana. In some cases, when direct exposure to allergens can’t be avoided during physical activity (such as when mowing the lawn), a pollen mask may be helpful. These items can act as barriers and help lower your exposure to seasonal allergy triggers during your outdoor activities.
6. Be flexible and listen to your body
It’s best to remain flexible and tuned into your symptoms before stepping outside to exercise. This can include incorporating creative ideas, such as doing half of your workout indoors and the less strenuous half outdoors, for example. It’s all about finding the right strategies that will make your outdoor exercise routine work for you, and taking it easy on days when you’re not feeling your best due to allergy symptoms.
7. Take a shower after your workout
It’s advisable to shower as soon as possible after exercising in order to eliminate allergens from your body and hair. Washing your workout attire after exercising can also help remove allergy triggers that collect on your clothing and help prevent a post-workout reaction. This also includes thoroughly wiping down any mats or equipment you may have taken with you outdoors.
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1. Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K et al. “How stress and anxiety can alter immediate and late phase skin test responses in allergic rhinitis.” Psychoneuroendocrinology vol. 34,5 (2009): 670-80. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.11.010
2. Cleveland Clinic. “Allergic Asthma: Causes, Symptoms, Tests and Treatment.” Health Library, Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 23 November 2020.
3. AAFA Community Services. “How Does Rain Affect Pollen Levels?” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 31 July 2017.
4. Telfast 120 mg and Telfast 180 mg PIL revision date November 2020.