Fiona Outdoors logo My independent guide to the best of Scotland outdoors

Catch Your Breath: Coping with Respiratory Illness on an Outdoor Adventure

Written by Fiona

July 18 2018

According to the British Lung Foundation, one in five people in the UK has suffered from a long-term respiratory illness at some point.

From childhood asthma to debilitating conditions like lung cancer and mesothelioma, lung disease is responsible for 700,000 hospital admissions every year, with 10,000 new diagnoses every week.

You might assume that suffering from a lung condition immediately rules out taking part in certain activities. Sports, for example, including outdoor pursuits, do not seem well suited to the risk of breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing and so on.

So if you are diagnosed with a respiratory illness, does that mean you have to hang up your running shoes, your paddle or your cycling helmet?

Not necessarily. Yes, lung disease can be frightening and debilitating. But as with most things in life, it is a case of taking the hand you have been dealt, and making the right adjustments so you can carry on doing the things you love.

There are countless inspiring stories out there about people who continue to enjoy outdoor sports and adventure despite a lung condition, like that of a 70-year-old Alaskan woman with Interstitial Lung Disease who kept participating in triathlons.

Then there is Phil Huston of US-based Clear Lungs Adventure, who continues his love of mountain climbing despite losing half a lung to cancer.

Preparation for a trip

To borrow the Boy Scouts’ motto, the key to continuing a love of outdoor pursuits with a lung condition is to Be Prepared. This includes being medically prepared, physically prepared and also taking the right precautions.

What kind of precautions might this involve? Well the obvious one is to make sure you are in good enough health to embark on the adventure you are planning. Always consult your doctor, get an assessment and their opinion and take it from there.

But it also means protecting yourself in case something goes wrong. Carry any medicines you need with you, and if you are travelling abroad to take part in a race, ticking a new peak off your list or rafting down a new set of rapids, make sure you have appropriate travel insurance.

If you suffer from a long term respiratory condition, you cannot just buy any old generic travel insurance policy. If you did need medical assistance, you would not be covered.

Instead, you have to look for specialist providers who will tailor policies to meet your medical needs. Travel insurance for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, for example, will specifically list the symptoms, triggers and treatments linked to that condition, providing you with financial protection and peace of mind for all circumstances.

Finally, don’t become disheartened if your physical health will not let you participate in activities quite as rigorous as you once enjoyed. If fell running is out of the question, there is always walking and trekking.

You get to enjoy more of the scenery at a more gentle pace, anyway.

More Like This


Historical landmarks of the Golden Triangle – A journey through time, taste and tranquillity


Six new sports you might like to try


Cycling on the Black Isle


Cycle Aviemore to Inverness


Online safety tips to protect your data while you travel


Cruising for the first time: What to expect on board