Did You Know Some People Are Allergic to Exercise?

Yeah, you read that title correctly. Some gym-goers (both male & female) at a rate of about 50 out of 100,000, actually have a legitimate excuse to be conscious of their exercise rates and abilities. Granted, it’s not exercise alone that they’re allergic to, but the act of exercise in addition with an allergen trigger.

In this case, exercise is a trigger that projects the body into an allergic reaction. The condition is called Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis, and it’s somewhat of an anomaly in the world of medicine. Anaphylaxis is a severe (sometimes life threatening) reaction to an allergen trigger that needs to be treated right away. These are cases when you hear about epinephrine pens (EpiPens) being used, or constantly held by those with allergies.

Allergists, doctors, and researchers are aware of the condition, but are still unsure of the exact biological mechanisms that cause the reactions. Researchers have known of this condition for over 35 years, and have made only some progress in figuring out what may stimulate the exercise induced reaction. What’s most strange about this form of allergic reaction is how the cases vary from person to person. This is why it’s so difficult for researchers to nail down exact mechanisms.

Researchers have said that roughly 30-50% of those who suffer from this condition find the reaction due to certain foods combined with exercise; others have had reactions caused by the combination of exercise and drugs like Aspirin. And there are even some women who have reactions when they’re in the peak of their menstrual cycle (possibly due to very high estrogen levels). To top it off, the intensity trigger of exercise varies from person to person. So while you have different triggers, you also have different activities/intensities to account for.

There have been a few theories made behind what may cause Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis: Increased blood flow pushing sensitive immune cells through the body, and gut bacteria changing behavior due to exercise. But these are only a couple theories, and it’s a difficult condition to test due to the varying conditions.

Fortunately, those who suffer from this condition usually find out right away, and medical professionals can help provide a clear cut game plan for combating the condition. It’s a rare, but pretty severe condition that should be taken seriously like any normal allergy, especially when you account for all factors involved.


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Jake holds a Master's in Sports Science and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as one of the full time writers and editors at BarBend. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand. As of right now, Jake has published over 1,100 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake's bread-and-butter. On top of his personal writing, Jake edits and plans content for 15 writers and strength coaches who come from every strength sport.Prior to BarBend, Jake worked for two years as a strength and conditioning coach for hockey and lacrosse players, and was a writer at the Vitamin Shoppe's corporate office. Jake regularly competes in powerlifting in the 181 lb weight class, and considers himself a weightlifting shoe sneaker head. On the side of writing full time, Jake works as a part-time strength coach and works with clients through his personal business Concrete Athletics in Hoboken and New York City.