Shortness Of Breath After Walking: 7 Causes And Helpful Cure

Shortness of breath is referred to as Chronic Dyspnea1, which is a sense of discomfort felt when inhaling, or exhaling. Shortness of breath after walking can result from a more serious underlying medical condition or something that demands a minor fixing.

1. Shortness Of Breath After Walking

Physical activity such as walking, jogging, exercising, and more, can sometimes induce difficulty breathing.

Shortness of breath after walking can result from a more serious underlying medical condition or something that demands a minor fixing.

2. How To Spot Breathing Difficulty?

woman sitting outdoors with mask
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

There are a few symptoms that help one spot difficult breathing. It is essential to understand these simple symptoms to take further steps and gather medical attention.

A person who faces trouble breathing or shortness of breath after walking will often complain about feeling a sense of discomfort when breathing.

Breathing has often seemed to be an effortless activity. However, when someone faces difficulty in breathing, they may complain about putting in extra effort or feel entirely out of breath.

It is important to note that different people face this issue differently with varying intensity.

Physical activity plays a significant role in worsening these symptoms of shortness of breath after walking.

3. Reasons For Shortness Of Breath After Walking

As mentioned, shortness of breath after walking or breathing difficulty may have underlying causes; hence it is first essential to understand these to get an accurate diagnosis.

3.1. Asthma

One of the most common causes of the discussed issue has been Asthma.

Symptoms Of Asthma

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing ( making a high-pitched noise when breathing)
  • Mild chest pain
  • Coughing

The severity of asthma 2ranges from person to person. While some asthma patients may only face the symptoms as a response to triggers, some have more ongoing severe symptoms.

Those with mild symptoms may avoid discomfort by avoiding trigger elements such as pollen, dust, and more.

However, people with severe symptoms will most often need specialized asthma medications.

3.2. Anxiety-Induced Difficulty

Anxiety has also been one of the most common causes of improper breathing. This mental condition comes along with many more symptoms.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Unexplained sense of panic, terror, or anger
  • Difficulty in thinking clearly

Anxiety is a severe condition that must be brought to medical attention to ease symptoms. Various treatments and techniques help with the symptoms – ranging from therapies, medications, and meditation activities.

3.3. Irregular Heartbeats

Irregular beating of the heart is known as heart arrhythmia. The symptoms vary from person to person – while some may be able to face these symptoms acting as hurdles in their daily life, others may not experience these to such an extent.

Symptoms Of Heart Arrhythmia

  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • In more severe cases, the patient may even lose consciousness and faint

Heart conditions of any type must be treated as a medical emergency. Heart failure can be deemed fatal in almost every severe case related to the heart; hence quicker action must be taken.

The treatment depends upon the severity, but usually, milder cases tend to be controlled with the help of medications. However, in some cases, the patient may need a cardioverter-defibrillator 3which can be implanted, or a cardiac pacemaker.

In many severe cases, the tissues that are impure and diseased will need to be removed with the help of a procedure called catheter ablation.

3.4. Lung Disease

The most common lung infection has been Pneumonia. The causes of this lung infection range from viruses, fungi, or bacteria. It may worsen when present in bad air quality, similar to Asthma.

Symptoms Of Pneumonia

  • Fever, sometimes accompanied by chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Crackling in the lungs

Pneumonia can be treated with the help of appropriately prescribed antibiotics along with the medicines required to treat fever.

In severe cases, a healthcare professional will advise the patient to be admitted and be given essential fluids through an IV along with oxygen therapy.

3.5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is another set of diseases of the lungs that comes with a common symptom of difficulty in breathing.

The most common cause of this condition is smoking cigarettes for a longer time and exposure to bad-quality of air.

Symptoms Of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

  • Wheezing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Weakened muscles
  • Barrel chest – a condition in which a part of the patient’s chest seems inflated at all times

Milder cases of COPD can be treated successfully with the help of antibiotics and other appropriate medications.

However, severe cases will need immediate medical attention with hospitalization, Bronchodilator (a procedure that helps relax lung muscles and makes breathing more straightforward), and oxygen therapy.

Even more severe cases will need an immediate lung transplant.

3.6. Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is when blood flow is disrupted in the pulmonary artery. It is basically a blockage in the pulmonary artery in the lungs caused by a blood clot.

It has been noticed that people who take certain kinds of birth control have been more prone to this disease.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism

  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting or weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Spitting blood

3.7. Other Medical Conditions

no smoking campaign cigarette asthma inhaler
Image by Ralph from Pixabay

Various other medical conditions may also play a significant role in causing one to breathe with difficulty. These are :

  • Anemia
  • Heart disease and heart failure
  • Certain allergies
  • Pleurisy
  • Tuberculosis
  • Sarcoidosis, also known as Besnier Boeck Schaumann Disease

4. Ways Of Diagnosis

If a person has been facing shortness of breath after walking or in general, many risk factors come attached. That is why it is imperative to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Tests that help determine the root causes of breathing difficulties :

  1. Computerized Tomography (CT) scan of the chest
  2. X-ray of the chest
  3. Exercise testing in cases of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction
  4. Spirometry – a simple test that requires you to breathe into a mouthpiece, which then determines the functionality of the lungs.
  5. Blood tests

5. Breathing Techniques That Can Help

A common misconception about breathlessness or shortness of breath after walking has been deep breathing or breathing faster. However, this can be deemed much worse in this condition as it makes the person’s muscles need to work much harder to breathe.

The following are a few breathing techniques that may help ease shortness of breath :

5.1. Blowing A Candle

Gently breathe in and exhale through pursed lips – in the same method as one would do when blowing candles.

5.2. Breathing Within Interval

woman wearing mask sneezing outdoor
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

For example, inhale when you are sitting and decide to get up. Exhale out after you have finished the act of getting up and are upright.

5.3. Paced Breathing

Generally, it has been noted that an average human breathes about 12-20 times in one minute. Paced breathing requires you to lower this down and take 6-10 breaths per minute only. This exercise helps relax your body and mind.

6. Symptoms Acting As Warning Sign

While shortness of breath after walking or breathlessness, in general, may be easily noticeable, specific symptoms signal more severe issues.

Some of these symptoms are :

  • Gasping for more oxygen
  • Mild to moderate chest pain
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking
  • Excessive sweating
  • Skin turning pale or bluish
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Coughing out blood

The sudden onset of breathing difficulty is a cause of great concern and is supposed to be treated as a medical emergency.

7. Home Remedies

In cases when the person knows the root cause of their breathing difficulty and has ruled out the possibility of a medical emergency, the following home remedies can help ease symptoms :

7.1. Get In A Comfortable Position

This method acts best when shortness of breath is caused due to anxiety or stress.

It is essential that the person gets into a comfortable, well-supported position.

Some of these positions are :

  • Sit on a chair that has a well-supported back
  • Stand straight with hands resting on a table
  • Lie down on a comfortable surface and have pillows under your head and knees
  • Stand upright and support your back with the help of the wall.

7.2. Inhale Steam

Sometimes breathing can be difficult due to nasal blockages caused by a common cold. Steam inhalation at home is comparatively an easy procedure.

Follow the given steps:

  • Almost boil some water in a vessel
  • Add some drops of eucalyptus oil or any pain relief gel
  • Cover your head and face with a piece of cloth or towel
  • Position your face right above the vessel carefully
  • Take thorough and deep breaths in

Be careful not to burn your face with steam.

7.3. Consuming Ginger

Peer-reviewed studies suggest that consuming fresh ginger helps clear out any nasal blockages and defend the body from respiratory syncytial viruses.

You can either consume little bits of ginger or mix them well in hot water and drink it.

7.4. Black Coffee

Caffeine has been known to help relax muscle tightness. Hence, black coffee may help ease muscles present in the airway.

People with asthma have often been advised to consume black coffee as it improves the functionality of the airway to some extent.

However, while the consumption of black coffee is encouraged, over-consumption is strictly discouraged as this will bring in many more health difficulties.

8. Conclusion

Breathing is an important activity that our body is required to do, and it is considered normal when done effortlessly.

Shortness of breath after walking can have various causes, ranging from normal exertion to underlying medical conditions. It is essential to consider your age, fitness level, and environmental factors while also being vigilant about any persistent or severe symptoms.

Persistent or severe shortness of breath after walking should not be ignored, as it can be a symptom of underlying medical conditions. Conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, or lung infections may cause this symptom.

If shortness of breath after walking is persistent, worsening, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms like chest pain, dizziness, or fainting, it is crucial to seek medical evaluation. Your healthcare provider can perform tests, such as pulmonary function tests, EKG, or imaging, to determine the underlying cause.

If in doubt or if the symptom is concerning, consulting a healthcare professional is always the safest course of action to identify and address any underlying issues.

In case a person experiences difficulty breathing or shortness of breath after walking, they must get it checked out in order to find the root cause and get started with the appropriate treatment.


1. How can I improve my breathing when walking?

A. You can improve your breathing during walking by starting with shorter and less intense walks and gradually increasing the duration and intensity. Practicing deep breathing exercises, maintaining good posture, and staying hydrated can also help.

2. How can I prevent shortness of breath during physical activity?

A. Preventing shortness of breath during physical activity involves building up your stamina gradually through regular exercise, staying hydrated, avoiding extreme temperatures, and addressing any underlying medical conditions with your healthcare provider’s guidance.

3. Can shortness of breath be a sign of a heart problem?

A. Yes, shortness of breath can be a symptom of heart-related issues, such as coronary artery disease or heart failure. If you experience shortness of breath along with chest pain or other heart-related symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Read more

  1. O’Donnell, Denis E., et al. “Dyspnea in COPD: new mechanistic insights and management implications.” Advances in therapy 37 (2020): 41-60. ↩︎
  2. Cevhertas, Lacin, et al. “Advances and recent developments in asthma in 2020.” Allergy 75.12 (2020): 3124-3146. ↩︎
  3. Friedman, Paul, et al. “Efficacy and safety of an extravascular implantable cardioverter–defibrillator.” New England Journal of Medicine 387.14 (2022): 1292-1302. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Suchi


Jahnavi Dass
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