Why does shortness of breath appear on exertion?

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Why does shortness of breath appear on exertion?
Why does shortness of breath appear on exertion?

Find out why you get shortness of breath with excessive exercise and what exercises you need to do to get rid of this phenomenon. There are many factors that cause shortness of breath. Let's take a look at the causes and treatment of exertional dyspnea together.

Shortness of breath: what is it and the causes

Tired girl sitting on the grass

Shortness of breath is a condition accompanied by an impairment of the dative process. Its nature may differ, and scientists distinguish between three types of shortness of breath:

  • Inspiratory - breathing is difficult.
  • Expiratory - it is difficult to exhale.
  • Mixed.

Shortness of breath is an external manifestation of oxygen deficiency in body tissues. When you begin to feel a lack of oxygen, there is a gradual change in the depth and rate of breathing, which becomes more superficial. The higher the state of hypoxia, the more often a person begins to breathe. The body strives for balance, and under the influence of physical exertion, tissues consume more oxygen.

If it is not enough, then the brain receives a signal and gives a command to increase the activity of the respiratory system. As a result, the lungs and heart muscles increase the rate of work in order to supply the required amount of oxygen to the body. On average, after physical exertion in a healthy person, shortness of breath disappears in five minutes or a maximum of seven.

With high physical exertion, shortness of breath can be considered normal. It most often occurs when overworked or in people leading a passive lifestyle while doing hard work. Even climbing stairs for an untrained person can cause shortness of breath. After a short rest, everything is back to normal. This problem can be solved very easily - you just need to increase your activity. In old age, it is worth taking regular walks and gradually the body adapts to such loads. Otherwise, you should come to terms with this phenomenon. Note that shortness of breath can also occur as a result of severe stress.

At this point, the body is actively synthesizing adrenaline, which leads to oversaturation of body tissues with oxygen. If you do not have problems with the heart muscle, then you should not be afraid of shortness of breath and after a short rest, the problem will resolve on its own. However, in the presence of diseases of the cardiovascular system, the situation may worsen.

Diseases in which shortness of breath is common

The doctor explains to a young girl why she has shortness of breath

Considering the causes and treatment of shortness of breath during exercise, it is necessary to talk about those ailments in which this condition manifests itself quite often. The most serious among them are pathologies of the heart muscle and vascular system, lung ailments, anemia, allergies, problems with the endocrine system and obesity.

In addition, the appearance of shortness of breath is possible in the following situations:

  • Psycho-emotional stress.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Problems with the passage of air through the respiratory tract.
  • Climate change.
  • Alcohol and tobacco abuse.

Often people ignore frequent breathing problems, which can lead to serious consequences. It is important to understand that the causes and treatment of exertional dyspnea can be pathological if a person has other ailments.

Pathologies of the heart muscle and vascular system

At first, shortness of breath occurs only after exercise, but as heart failure progresses, it becomes a serious problem even at rest.Most often, patients have difficulty inhaling, but there is no discomfort during exhalation. If heart failure is at a high stage of development, the patient can sleep in a sitting or reclining position to facilitate breathing. Among the secondary symptoms of this ailment, the appearance of edema and pain in the chest area should be noted.

Acute left ventricular failure

This condition is most often caused by excessive stress on the heart muscle. Ailments such as atherosclerosis, heart disease and hypertension can also aggravate the situation.

Cardiac asthma

Against the background of increased physical exertion, and at the last stage of the disease and at rest, the patient develops severe shortness of breath, attacks of suffocation. To improve their condition, a person tries to find a position of the body that can relieve symptoms. In such a situation, an ambulance team should be called and the supply of fresh air to the victim should be ensured.

Pulmonary edema

This ailment is a complication of cardiac asthma. In the patient, breathing becomes bubbling and the state changes. You must remember that this disease is extremely dangerous and you need to seek medical help as soon as possible. Otherwise, death is possible.


Shortness of breath most often occurs at maximum blood pressure, and the attack can last for 10-30 minutes. When the pressure begins to subside, the shortness of breath goes away.

Myocardial infarction

With myocardial infarction, an attack of suffocation begins, which cannot be stopped. As a result, the formation of pulmonary edema is possible. As soon as there is a suspicion of a heart attack, it is necessary to ensure the patient's rest and immediately call for medical help.

Lung ailments

Quite often, the cause of shortness of breath is bronchial asthma. During an attack of this disease, a spasm of the bronchi occurs, and a person cannot breathe normally. If the attack cannot be stopped in a short time, then the asmatoid status of a condition that threatens a person's life may appear.


The disease develops against the background of a decrease in the ability of the blood to carry a sufficient amount of oxygen. Under the influence of physical exertion, the body begins to experience strong oxygen starvation, which the body tries to compensate for by increasing respiration rate.


Allergic agents can cause spasms, and even swelling of the larynx, which obstructs the path of air to the lungs. Shortness of breath can be mild or severe, depending on the severity of the allergic attack.

Disorders in the endocrine system

As you should know, hormonal substances control all processes in our body. If the endocrine system begins to malfunction, then various health problems appear, including shortness of breath. Note that breathing problems are the first symptom of a hormonal dysfunction.


In acute infectious diseases, accompanied by a sharp increase in body temperature, and the patient's breathing and heart rate become more frequent. If the infection affects the lungs or heart muscle, shortness of breath can often appear even at rest and become severe.


When body weight exceeds the norm. The heart has to work with increased stress. In addition, the process of oxygen delivery to the tissues becomes more difficult, since fat can envelop the heart muscle. In difficult situations, fat cells can even penetrate the alveolar tissue. As a result, the breathing process is disrupted and shortness of breath appears.

Having considered the causes of shortness of breath during exercise, it is necessary to remind that if breathing normalizes during a short rest, then there is no reason for concern.

Treatment and prevention of exertional dyspnea

Guy with shortness of breath after running

First of all, you need to learn how to breathe correctly, no matter how strange it may sound. With exercise, you can increase your lung capacity, which also helps to minimize the onset of shortness of breath. All your sports activities should be carried out in a well-ventilated area, use clothing that does not restrict movement and you do not experience any problems with well-being.

Now we will introduce you to a set of simple exercises that can help prevent shortness of breath. Begin to perform each of them in four repetitions, gradually bringing their number to 12. If during the execution of any exercise you feel discomfort, switch to an easier option.

Exercise number 1

Sit in a chair with your legs together and your back straight. Hands are located on the knee joints. And the feet are next to each other. Move your hands to your lower ribs and begin to inhale slowly. In this case, the head and shoulder joints should tilt to the side. Returning to the starting position, repeat the movement in the opposite direction.

Exercise number 2

Take a supine position with your legs bent at the knee joints and resting your feet on the ground. As you exhale, raise your pelvis and hold your breath at the maximum end point of the trajectory. Staying in this position for a few seconds. While exhaling slowly, return to the starting position.

While inhaling, pull the knee joint of the left leg to the chest, and as you exhale, return to the starting position. Then repeat the movement on the other leg, and then on both at once. The head and shoulder joints should be raised during inhalation, and the chin should touch the chest. The complex is closed by walking in a circle, and breathing at this moment should be calm.

If you have found an attack of suffocation, then you need to take the following steps:

  1. Calm down and then sit down the victim.
  2. Unbutton your clothes so that they do not interfere with breathing.
  3. Provide fresh air.
  4. If the person has heart problems, give nitroglycerin or another similar medication.
  5. If this is an asthma attack, then use the appropriate medication.

If the attack cannot be stopped, call an ambulance. Until the medical team appears. The patient must be supervised. If shortness of breath bothers you often, then quit smoking, try to avoid stressful situations, and also start exercising.

Shortness of breath in children

At different ages, the respiratory rate in children is different. You can suspect the appearance of this condition in a child with the following number of respiratory movements per minute:

  1. Age up to six months - more than 60 movements.
  2. 6 months to a year - over 50 movements.
  3. From one to 5 years - more than 40 movements.
  4. 5 to 10 years old - more than 25 movements.
  5. After 10 years - over 20 movements.

It is best to count the number of respiratory movements in a child at a time when he is sleeping. Just place a warm hand on your baby's chest and count the number of breaths he takes over a minute. It is important to remember that in a stressful situation or under the influence of physical exertion, the respiratory rate increases. If breathing is frequent and slowly recovers during rest, then it is worth seeking help from a doctor.

For more information on shortness of breath and arrhythmia during exercise, see the video below:

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