Exercising with health problems

You don't have to forego the gym just because you have some problems with your health. As long as you take care and know your limits you can exercise with the best of them.

One person in a wheelchair surrounded by people running

Having health problems doesn't mean you can't exercise


As long as your asthma is well controlled, which means you’re maintaining regular health check ups, you should be able to take part in most forms of exercise. These activities are especially beneficial to people with asthma:

  • Yoga: Teaches proper breathing techniques
  • Swimming: The damp atmosphere can be of benefit, though chlorine in the water can set off asthma symptoms in some cases.
  • Team sports: Especially activities that allow you to take a breather while your team mates take over, such as hockey or football.

If you wish to go diving, parachuting or mountaineering you should consult your GP beforehand.

Exercise-induced asthma: Research indicates that about 80% of people with asthma have symptoms triggered by exercise (among other things). Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty in breathing. These usually begin after exercise and worsen about fifteen minutes after exercise stops. If exercise aggravates your asthma, try warming up for a minimum of five minutes and taking a couple of puffs from your inhaler before you start. If symptoms continue, talk to your doctor.


Having epilepsy does not mean exercise is out of bounds, just that you need a little forward planning to keep things safe. If you have regular seizures you should avoid sports which could leave you in a sticky situation should you have an attack. Generally, this means daredevil stuff such as scuba diving, parachuting, mountaineering, gliding, hang gliding, aviation, motor racing, boxing, and karate. Supervision may also be needed when doing any water-based sport (e.g. water-skiing; swimming) because of the risk of drowning if you have a seizure. The Epilepsy Action website has some very useful advice on exercising with epilepsy.

Reduced mobility

Always consult your doctor or physiotherapist before trying a new sport / fitness regime. Instructors may not be trained to deal with disability, or your specific situation, so be sure to establish this before you take things further.

Gyms: Look around for a gym that suits you. Some may be more accessible than others or better suited to certain disabilities. A good gym will give you a full assessment and provide you with a detailed training programme tailored to your needs. Try to go at quieter times if you’re likely to need help from staff.

More info:
English Federation of Disability Sport
Disability Sport England
You’re Able – Information, products and services for disabled people

Photo of race by Shutterstock. 

Are you affected by epilepsy?  Take part in our survey with Young Epilepsy here:  https://bit.ly/2J3REWI

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015