Health / Expert Advice

3 Reasons Your Chest Feels Tight During Exercise

Paying attention to your symptoms and pain levels can help distinguish concerns.

Any type of discomfort or pain during our exercise routines may lead our minds to think of the worst. That feels especially true whenever we experience chest tightness during exercise.

We’re conditioned to think that chest tightness or shortness of breath means, well, the worst. Our thoughts immediately jump to our heart and lungs. But there are many reasons that we may feel tightness in our chest—heart problems make up only a percentage of the possible diagnoses.

Below, with the help of medical journals and researchers, we discuss three of the most common reasons we may feel tightness in the chest during exercise. Read on to compare symptoms to help you distinguish concerns and quell any anxieties.

1. Being Out of Shape

Sometimes life gets in the way of our regular fitness routines–it happens! Getting back into it, though, can be tough. A few weeks (or more) off exercise can lead to chest tightness or feeling out of breath when you start working out again. While uncomfortable, this isn’t any reason to panic. Once you experience the pain or tightening of the chest, slow down or stop exercising. Take a moment to collect yourself and take a sip of water. There may also be other indicators that your body is out of shape. These include craving unhealthy food, problems staying asleep throughout the night, depression, and lethargy.

The good news is that you’re adding exercise back into your routine. If you pair that with good nutrition, you should start to see these symptoms diminish. Remember: It’s important to pace yourself and start off slow by beginning with workouts that build like the ones we have at Aaptiv.

2. Exercise-Induced Asthma

You may not have traditional asthma, but there’s such thing as exercise-induced asthma that may trigger during your workouts. It sounds strange, but this condition, otherwise known as exercise-induced bronchospasm, is quite common.

According to a study conducted at Ohio State University, forty percent of tested athletes who experienced chest tightness were diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. It’s easy to confuse this with simply being out of shape. The symptoms are similar (feeling short of breath, coughing, and chest tightness).

However, exercise-induced asthma can be brought on by the weather outside, allergens, and even external pollutants. It’s important to make yourself aware of the symptoms. Get tested by a physician if any of these symptoms (including external circumstances) apply to you or you can try natural remedies like this one.

3. Heart and Coronary Problems

We know that it’s crucial that the heart receives an ample amount of blood and oxygen, as it systematically moves throughout our bodies. When exercising, if the body isn’t receiving the right amount of necessary blood flow it can lead to a variety of heart issues that can result in a tight chest, such as coronary heart disease.

According to UCHealth, any blockage in our arteries, which limits oxygen flow throughout our body, can make our chest tighten. Plus, we may feel a shortness of breath. Unlike the other complications, the symptoms from heart and coronary problems can occur when doing simple activities like lifting boxes or taking out the trash. (It’s not only limited to strenuous exercise.)

Some basic measures to follow to avoid heart disease include routinely exercising, maintaining proper nutrition by eating healthy, consuming vital vitamins (like this essential vitamin) and minerals, and removing toxins from your body (found in junk foods and cigarettes).

Along with the three listed complications, there may be other reasons why you may feel tension or tightness in your chest. These include dehydration and pulled chest muscles. An important overall message to convey when experiencing any sort of discomfort in your chest during exercise is to extensively listen to your body. Pay attention to your symptoms to help differentiate between the possible outcomes.


Overall, keep a healthy routine. Aaptiv has workouts that can help you keep your health levels at their best.

Make sure that you eat nutritious food (and consume the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals), exercise regularly, and keep a positive frame of mind. This will not only make for a better quality of life, but it may help alleviate any chest tightness over time.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about any chest tightness you experience. He or she will be able to help you best manage your individual symptoms. While not all medical diagnoses are preventable, make sure to keep in tune with your body. Seek medical attention if any of the serious symptoms apply to you.

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