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What Is an Exercise Challenge?

An exercise challenge is classified as a type of bronchoprovocation. This is a way to challenge your lung function during exercise. People with normal lung function at rest but who develop airway constriction during or after exercise may have exercise-induced asthma.

How Does an Exercise Challenge Work?

Spirometry studies are done to get baseline lung function. You then exercise on a treadmill with increasing intensity. Repeat spirometry measurements are done to catch any changes in your lung function. They will be repeated when you stop exercising as well. A nurse will be with you the whole time to monitor your tolerance to the test and start any treatment if you develop problems.

When Do I Need an Exercise Challenge?

If your allergist suspects you have exercise-induced asthma, then they may call for an exercise challenge. If your asthma is already diagnosed but you find you cannot engage in physical activity without shortness of breath and other symptoms, an exercise challenge may also be in order.

Are There Any Side Effects?

You may find it hard to breathe for a few minutes after the exercise challenge. If you already have a prescribed inhaler or other asthma treatment, you may want to bring this with you. Please do not use an inhaler unless instructed by the nurse.  We have medication in our office if it is needed. The goal is never to cause serious ill effects for the person being tested.

What Can I Expect Before and After an Exercise Challenge?

Dress for the exercise challenge the way you would if you were going to the gym or doing any other exercise. Wear fitness clothing and running shoes or other athletic shoes.

You may have to temporarily cease some medications, especially those that alter airway flow, a few days or hours ahead of your test. Ask your allergist or the exercise challenge nurse before quitting any medications.

It’s also recommended you not exercise that day. Even though the exercises done during the challenge aren’t very intensive, prior exercise can alter test results. You will typically exercise on the bike or treadmill for four or six minutes at a time. Lastly, eat light.