Primary Care

You can still exercise with allergies. Learn how to ease your symptoms

Two best friends walking and doing sports on the beach.


If you have seasonal allergies, you understand it can be tough staying active outdoors. By following a few preventive measures, you can enjoy exercising without triggering your allergies!


By Chanpreet Singh, MD, Family Medicine, Nuvance Health Medical Practice


Let's face it, allergies can make staying active challenging. Sneezing, coughing, itching ... these symptoms can make it tough to lace up your sneakers and get moving. But guess what? By understanding how allergies and exercise interact, you can choose the right workouts and take steps to minimize your risk of an allergic reaction.


It’s common for adults to have seasonal allergies 


With warmer weather and seasonal changes, many people experience seasonal allergies. According to the CDC, about 25.7% of adults deal with seasonal allergies, leading to 4.1 million annual visits to the doctor’s office.


Common allergens like pollen, which are tiny seeds spread from flowering plants, trees, grass and weeds, can cause allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, congestion and watery and itchy eyes.


People with respiratory illnesses such as asthma are more sensitive to pollen and should take caution when going outdoors. Work with your family medicine provider to develop a safe exercise plan to minimize asthma flare-ups. Exercise is important to keep your lungs and muscles involved in breathing strong.




How to minimize allergy symptoms while exercising


Nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes can make it hard to breathe and affect your performance while exercising. Here are some tips to protect yourself:

  • Check pollen forecasts: Before heading outdoors, check your local allergy forecast. If pollen counts are high, exercise indoors or spend less time outside. 
  • Exercise early or late in the day: Pollen counts are usually highest in the morning, so consider exercising before dawn or later in the day.
  • Take anti-allergy medication: Over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, saline nasal sprays and eye drops can alleviate symptoms.  
  • Use sunscreen: Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) wherever your skin is exposed.
  • Dress appropriately: Wrap-around sunglasses and a hat can help keep pollen at bay. A mask or scarf over your nose and mouth can help filter out pollen from the air you breathe. 
  • Drink water: Proper hydration helps thin mucus and ease congestion caused by allergies.


  • Don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose: Avoid touching your face altogether. Especially, don’t rub your eyes. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after getting inside.
  • Keep your windows closed: If you’re exercising indoors, shut your windows and screen doors to keep the pollen out. Consider using high-efficiency filters in your HVAC system or an air purifier to improve indoor air quality. Extreme rainfall and warmer weather can also contribute to indoor mold growth, affecting air quality. If you’re driving to your exercise destination, keep your car windows closed so pollen stays out! 


If allergy symptoms persist or are severe, consider consulting your family medicine physician. They can provide personalized advice and may recommend allergy testing.



Outdoor exercises that are allergy-friendly


There are plenty of options for you to get a good workout in despite allergies. Here are some exercises to consider:

  • Swimming and water aerobics: Water activities are good activities for those with allergies and asthma. You’re breathing in warm, humid air at the pool. Warm air doesn’t constrict your breathing the way dry and cold air can. 

  • Cycling: Riding your bike is a great low-impact workout.

  • Walking: Another low-impact workout, walking is great for your physical and mental health. Take in some breathtaking views along your local walking paths.


Stay motivated by exercising with a friend or listening to a workout playlist. For further inspiration, consider joining the Nuvance Health six-week Get Fit Challenge. Take the time to focus on yourself and commit to get fit!


The bottom line: If you love the beautiful outdoors but want to avoid pollen, try swimming, cycling or walking in the evening when pollen counts are low. Joining a gym can give you access to various exercise strength training and cardio equipment. Indoor cycling classes, yoga or Pilates are great choices as they usually take place in environments with filtered air.