Allergies and Exercising

It might not seem like winter is leaving us anytime soon with some of our recent cold snaps, which can wreak havoc with our best laid plans to exercise, but rest assured it will soon be on its way out. However, as it leaves many of us worry about how to keep exercising through hay fever season. It’s not easy keeping an exercise routine going at the best of times, but when you suffer from itchy red eyes, running noses, tiredness and blocked sinuses, it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and forces us onto the relative safety of the couch.

So how do we combat allergy symptoms and achieve our exercise goals? It helps immensely if we can appreciate the benefits of exercise and know what types of exercise would be most suited to us if we are experiencing any allergy symptoms.

Benefits of exercise for allergies:

  • Reduces inflammation around the mouth, nose and lungs through increased blood flow
  • Increased blood flow helps with the removal of allergens in the body
  • Improves energy levels and boosts your immune system
  • Improves mood
  • Helps reduce stress on the body

Best Exercise Choices

  • Keep your exercise selection on the lighter side and focus on posture and form rather than on intensity. This can also help improve lung capacity and breathing.
  • Always ensure you perform a warm-up as specialists suggest this helps us reduce allergic symptoms. Aim for a good 10 minutes before beginning your chosen exercise.
  • Indoor options such as Pilates and yoga, which also focus on breathing and posture, are a great choice. We would often encourage people to exercise outdoors but if it’s particularly windy or hot, try to choose an exercise option indoors to minimise the impact of pollens and other allergens in the air.
  • Swimming is a great choice for many as the humid air can help clear sinuses as well as being a great resistance workout without any stressful impact on the body. Ensure you don’t have an allergy to chlorine before choosing this as a safe option.
  • If doing weight training, be sure to stop and start often, taking rest breaks rather than performing circuits and continuous exercises, especially if you suffer from asthma.

Top Tips

  • Wearing sunglasses when outdoors can help minimise some allergic symptoms.
  • If you are exercising outdoors be mindful of your surroundings and try to avoid large open paddocks or fields.
  • If you use an inhaler or other medications, ensure you have them with you if appropriate.
  • Keep a water bottle with you and stay hydrated.
  • Vitamin C can also help. Researchers found that 70% of participants that took a vitamin C supplement before running for a half an hour experienced decreased nasal congestion and sneezing.

It can be a challenge, but with the right exercise choices you can continue to exercise and feel your best.  Be sure to check with your medical practitioner if you have any concerns about exercising with allergies.


Lee-Anne Wann is a fitness specialist, nutritionist, presenter and author. She currently runs a health and fitness consultancy business providing companies and organisations with health, nutrition and wellness solutions and content, she also runs a private nutrition practice and was a television host for TVNZ’s ‘Kiwi Living’.