Burning in chest after running

Burning in chest after running


This article is about the feeling of burning in chest after running. If you are someone who exercises or goes for running, you must have noticed this feeling in your chest or lung area. It is a common problem. The cause of the heartburn may vary from person to person.

One of the common causes include gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux and GERD. Other causes include the ones which are related to the respiratory system.

Read more and know more about this condition. Like what are the main causes and how can you get rid of this condition.


What are the main causes?

How can you prevent this discomfort?


What are the main causes?

  • Buildup of lactic acid

One of the most common causes for burning pain in chest after exercise is due to lactic acid. This sensation comes soon after the exercise and goes away after the exercise has been stopped. Lactic acid is actually a product which is produced by the body after exercise. It helps the body to create energy much more quickly than it usually does.

The usual mechanism through which the body generates the energy is the aerobic process that is, it uses the oxygen.

But when the body undergoes severe exercise, the body is unable to generate enough oxygen to help with the overload, so here the body undergoes anaerobic process in which lactic acid is a by-product.

Your body will build up more lactic acid if you work harder. And if you are fit your body will be able to clear out the lactic acid which will be much slower otherwise.

If you are someone who is not used to strenuous exercise you might feel the pain more, but trained athletes do not feel that much pain or discomfort in their chest.


  • Delayed onset muscle soreness

If you have ever done strenuous exercise and you are not used to it. After some days you might feel pain in those muscles that you have worked on.

This is called delayed onset muscle soreness. It is only your body’s way of telling you that you have worked a bit harder. This pain usually goes away after some days.

The most appealing thing to do here might be to just sit on the couch and do nothing about it, but the best thing to treat this condition is to do a light exercise.

A simple jog or walk might be enough sometimes, these low intensity exercises might not seem to be doing a lot, but it helps with pain, and you start feeling much better after the exercise.

The rush of blood to your muscles will help the muscles to regain its flexibility and mobility and will help them get repaired. It is better to continue exercising once you have started working out.  In this way your body gets used to the workout.


  • Running in a cold weather

One the common and harmless reasons why you might feel burning in your lungs might be because if you are running and doing exercise in a cold weather. The mechanism behind this is that body has to work harder to warm or humidify the incoming air.

Cold air can be sometimes uncomfortable to the lungs if it isn’t warmed. Cold air is uncomfortable to the body because it is dry air.

The dry and cold air often aggravates lungs and the adjacent airways, and this can lead to burning sensation in the lungs.


  • Illness

any kind of pulmonary infection like pneumonia or bronchitis have a burning like sensation. It is associated with the illness and this sensation is often intensified by exercise. So, this might be a clue that the lungs have got an infection.


  • Chronic respiratory disease

Different kind of chronic diseases can lead to pain and discomfort in the lungs while exercise. Some of these diseases include asthma. Asthma is usually exercise induced illness.


  • Digestion and acid reflux

The reason for acid reflux varies. One of the main reasons for this is the weakness of the muscular band that separates the intestines from the stomach.

If this muscle band fails to seal after swallowing, the acidic juices can therefore back up into the stomach and hence the esophagus and sometimes it comes back to the throat and mouth.

This sensation may lead to nerve irritation in the chest area. Sometimes in the severe conditions the acid can actually travel through and reach the lungs which can ultimately irritate the lung tissue. 

This is called aspiration, which is a severe but rare condition which needs immediate medical care.

Because the chest and the upper GI system share the anatomy, the irritation spreads towards the whole chest region which results in the irritation of the chest area. GERD can sometimes make people they are having a heart attack.

The gravitational forces result in the spread of the acid in the whole chest area and the person might feel that the sensation is coming from the lungs but in reality, it is coming from elsewhere. The condition is usually treated with anti-acid medications such as PPIs. Also, to prevent, it is better to avoid eating bigger meals at least three hours before exercise.


  • Cold and flu

Having a recent infection in the respiratory system can have long term symptoms which sometimes linger for weeks. If you have had a cough recently and you return to running or exercise, the irritation in the chest area may be due to the strained muscles of the rib cage. Sometimes in addition to this the actual tissues of the lungs might be inflamed.


  • Are you a beginner?

If you have never done any kind of exercise before, your body is used to one kind breathing pattern.

When the body undergoes physical changes, the breathing might become harder in times of exercise which can also sometimes lead to a sensation of discomfort in the chest.

The solution is to not go hard on yourself, your body should get some time to get used to the exercise. So, the best thing to do Is start from mild exercises and then increase the intensity step by step.



How can you prevent this discomfort?

It all depends on the underlying cause of the burning. Some of the measures that can be adapted by everyone includes the following:

  • Avoid any kind of harsh exercise or physical activity within two hours of eating:

If you eat food, your stomach becomes full which ultimately results in pressure around the sphincter. The one which sits right in between the esophagus and the stomach. This can in turn result in heartburn and hence the burning sensation.


  • Watch what you eat:

Always eat sensibly before you opt for doing any kind of exercise. In short it is advised to avoid foods which increase the chance of acid reflux.

Some of these food items include dark chocolate, citrus juices, drinks that are caffeinated, fatty and spicy food items. Some of the experts recommend that we should avoid food high in proteins and fat before exercise and opt for food items which are high in fat.


  • Water is the best treatment and prevention for almost everything:

During your exercise, drink high amount of water. It will not only keep you hydrated but it will also help with the digestion.


  • Never take chest pain for granted:

If you feel any kind of chest pain, it is best to get it checked by the doctor.


  • If you feel that your heartburn is out of hand:

it is best advised that you should take anti-acid medications before doing any kind of exercise. Over the counter medications like H2 blockers are available which you can use to prevent the heartburn. But if your problem is severe and OTC medications are not being helpful, arrange an appointment with a doctor to get your GI system checked and get the accurate medications.


  • It is always advised to start with low intensity exercises in every situation:

Any exercises that may be harsh can cause the intensity and risk of GERD. The doctors have seen that lighter activities like walking and jogging are not likely to cause many problems.


  • One of the important factors is that it is better to keep on exercising and not stopping


  • You can focus on the breathing pattern you have during exercise and try to maintain a healthy breathing style:

Try to keep your breathing style as relaxed as possible and practice calm breathing. These things will help keep your lungs healthy and can also help to minimize the stress that is done to the respiratory system.



As we saw the causes of the heartburn may range from one problem to another. Important factor is to keep yourself balanced with the exercise. It is best to continue exercising and keeping your health in check.

If your heartburn is severe and OTC medicines do not help you, do not take this condition lightly and get it checked fro the doctor.


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