During exercise, your body requires more oxygen to fuel the increased physical demand. This leads to faster and deeper breathing, a normal physiologic response often described as shortness of breath.
However, there are times when shortness of breath with exertion signals potential health issues that need further investigation.
Our team at Premier Cardiology Consultants is happy to share information about the possible causes of exercise-induced shortness of breath and when to check in with one of our specialists.
Understanding shortness of breath
Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, refers to the sensation of not getting enough air into your lungs. It can manifest as breathlessness, rapid or shallow breathing, or the inability to catch your breath.
Occasional shortness of breath during intense exercise is expected, especially if you push your body beyond its usual limits. However, persistent or excessive shortness of breath could indicate an underlying issue that requires attention.
Common causes of shortness of breath after exercise
Possible causes of excessive shortness of breath during or after exercise include:
Poor physical conditioning
Lack of exercise can result in poor physical conditioning that increases the likelihood of shortness of breath with exercise.
Notably, it's always best to check in with a specialist before beginning if you’re planning a new exercise routine after living a sedentary lifestyle.
Your Premier Cardiology Consultants provider can offer guidance regarding heart-healthy workouts based on your current conditioning, starting with low-impact exercises and gradually increasing the intensity and duration over time.
Exercise-induced asthma is a condition where physical activity triggers asthma symptoms, including shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
COPD is a progressive lung disease that includes conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Exercise can exacerbate breathing difficulties in individuals with COPD, causing shortness of breath.
Various heart conditions, such as heart failure, valve disease, arrhythmia, or coronary artery disease, can impair the heart's ability to pump blood effectively. Inadequate blood supply to muscles and organs can result in shortness of breath during exercise.
When should I worry about shortness of breath after exercise?
Mild shortness of breath that resolves shortly after your workout is generally not a cause for concern. However, our Premier Cardiology Consultants team recommends considering these factors when deciding whether to schedule an evaluation:
Severity and duration
Schedule a visit if you cannot catch your breath after resting for a few minutes or if the shortness of breath worsens.
Signs of moderate to severe shortness of breath that requires medical evaluation include the inability to speak in complete sentences, dizziness, or confusion.
Seek emergency care if your shortness of breath develops suddenly and is accompanied by chest pain or tightness since these could be signs of a heart attack.
Accompanying risk factors
Schedule a visit if you develop shortness of breath with exertion and have a known history of elevated cholesterol, excess weight, hypertension, diabetes, or other conditions that increase your risk of heart disease.
It’s also essential to seek medical guidance if you develop shortness of breath with mild exertion, such as simply walking across a parking lot or up a short flight of stairs. These symptoms could indicate heart failure, worsening lung disease, or other serious health concerns.
Our team also recommends an evaluation if shortness of breath after exercise is accompanied by:
- Difficulty breathing when lying flat
- Persistent swelling in your feet and ankles
- Heart palpitations
- Dry cough
- Rapid unexplained weight gain (fluid buildup)
These symptoms may signal an underlying condition requiring medical management.
Peace of mind
Our Premier Cardiology Consultants team recommends scheduling a visit whenever you’re concerned about your symptoms. A cardiac evaluation can reduce anxiety, provide invaluable information about your heart health, and identify concerns early when treatment is less complicated.
Schedule your visit by calling one of our New York offices today.