Can you be allergic to exercise?

Can you be allergic to exercise?

by Ashley Tan 18 Feb 2020

From running marathons to embarking on training programmes like the German Body Composition, research has shown that the health benefits reaped from working out do not discriminate – exercise is good for all of us, regardless of our age or biological composition… right? Well, this may not be the case for everyone in reality. In fact, there is a small portion of the global population who suffer from a condition known as Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis (EIA), which in layman’s terms, translates to being allergic to exercise. 


According to a scientific paper on EIA, “anaphylaxis is defined as a potentially life-threatening generalised or systemic hypersensitivity reaction involving several organs and systems, particularly the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and cardiovascular system”. For individuals who suffer from EIA, exercise triggers an allergic reaction that often requires epinephrine pens (EpiPens) to be used in the event of an emergency. In most cases, vigorous activities including jogging, playing tennis and dancing are associated with EIA. However, activities that require lower levels of exertion can trigger similar reactions.


While EIA is a known condition in the medical community, researchers have made limited progress in determining the precise mechanics of this allergic reaction. This is mainly due to the fact that the allergic reactions caused by EIA vary from individual to individual, thereby making it difficult to pinpoint the exact mechanisms and catalysts.


Some researchers have claimed that it is the combination of exercise with certain foods that induces allergic reactions in about 30 to 50% of individuals suffering from EIA, while other EIA sufferers have had reactions triggered by the combination of exercise and drugs including Aspirin. There are also cases where women have suffered from reactions during the peak of their menstrual cycle, likely because of the rise in oestrogen levels.


Although EIA is rare, medical professionals are currently able to advise sufferers on the precautionary measures to take to keep this condition in check. If you’re a sufferer of EIA, you’ve likely already had your condition diagnosed by a doctor. However, while mild symptoms could occur, more severe ones could develop, so your best bet would be to ask your doctor to refer you to an allergy clinic. Being allergic to exercise might sound rather outlandish and peculiar at first, but in all seriousness, EIA is a potentially lethal condition that should not be trifled with.