For people with asthma, simple everyday things like walking to the bus stop or climbing a flight of stairs can be a real challenge. Consequently, asthmatic individuals may be less motivated to exercise, even if they enjoy it. This is especially true for those with exercise-induced asthma, which means the very act of exercise can trigger an asthma attack.
However, exercise has numerous health benefits, and with a little care and planning, even folks with asthma can reap these benefits.
Before we dive into some exercising tips, here’s a refresher on how asthma works.
Asthma is a disease of the lungs that makes it difficult to breathe due to swollen airways. This inflammation is triggered by substances such as pollen, mold, pet dander, tobacco smoke, and dust mites. Asthma can also be triggered by certain medications, cold weather, and as previously mentioned, exercise.
Asthma is quite common. More than 25 million people in the United States have asthma, including seven million children. Left untreated, asthma can have fatal consequences, including persistent lung problems and a reduced ability to exercise and sleep well.
How Asthma Is Treated
There are two main types of medication used to treat asthma: rescue medications and control medications.
Rescue medications are used when a patient is experiencing an asthma attack. They control symptoms like shortness of breath and wheezing.
Control medications are taken regularly to prevent asthma attacks or reduce the number and intensity of the attacks. This type of medication will not work in an immediate situation like during an asthma attack.
It’s important to note, though, that asthma affects individuals differently, so different rescue and control medications may be needed, depending on the type of asthma and the condition of the person with asthma.
Asthma and Exercise Safety
As long as you have your asthma under control with medication, you can exercise just like anyone else! While the thought of exercising may not be attractive to all of you, exercise is important for your health, especially if you have asthma:
- Physical activity improves stamina and your lung efficiency. You’ll become less breathless.
- Being active promotes weight loss, which may help relieve some symptoms of asthma.
- Exercise improves cardiovascular health, muscle and bone strength, and even cognitive function.
- Exercise also improves mood.
So, if you’re interested in exercising with asthma, visit your doctor first. Make sure you have a solid asthma action plan in place, and make sure you understand how and when to use your medications.
Exercise Tips for Asthma
Having asthma doesn’t mean you’re benched for life! Here are a few tips to help you stay active:
- Take your regular maintenance medication, and keep rescue medication on hand.
Remember to take your control medication regularly according to your doctor’s instructions. And make sure you re-stock your medication long before you run out.
You should also always bring along your rescue medication. So keep it in your sports duffle bag, backpack, or in another spot where you won’t forget it. Doing all you can to prevent attacks and being prepared should an attack happen will give you peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your activity.
If prescription prices are putting a strain on your ability to keep up a regular supply of control and rescue medication, you can find more affordable prices at the best Canadian online pharmacy referral sites. For instance, you can buy ADVAIR® HFA from sites that ship medication from licensed pharmacies in countries where pharmaceutical prices are more strictly regulated.
- If you’re sensitive to cold air, try swimming.
For those of you easily triggered by cold weather, swimming is a good exercising option because the warm, moist air at the swimming pool is less likely to trigger an asthma attack.
If exercising in cold air is your only option and you’re sensitive to the condition, try wearing a scarf over your face. If scarves are too heavy, ski masks may be more comfortable.
- Try “burst” activities.
Sports that do not require continuous and uninterrupted movement may be good for you as they will help you find time to catch your breath. Such sports could include team ball sports like football and baseball. So consider checking out your local football or baseball groups.
- Check the pollen count before going outside.
If your asthma is triggered by pollen, you can look to your local weather forecast for a daily pollen report. Avoid exercising outside on days where the pollen count is especially high. If you are an outdoor jogger, for example, you can consider jogging on a treadmill instead, or doing some strength training exercises within the comfort of your own home.
- Don’t like sports? Don’t forget the power of walking.
Walking is a rather underappreciated exercise. While it’s continuous, you can speed up or slow down based on your comfort. You can also choose an easy route on even ground or opt for an uphill, rugged climb.
What’s more, walking can be easily built into even the busiest person’s day. Simply walk to as many places as you can. Get off a bus stop or two earlier, and walk the rest of the way. Or even just choose stairs over elevators and escalators.
- Learn some yoga moves.
Learning to control breathing is a major component to yoga, making this a useful form of exercise for asthmatics. Along with training your strength and flexibility, yoga also typically takes place indoors. This means you don’t have to worry about exercising in cold air.
- Let others know.
Tell your instructors, coaches, teammates, and other people you work out with that you have asthma. Educate them on the warning signs of an attack. A knowledgeable bystander can make a big difference in the event you’re incapacitated.
If you do extreme sports, such as skiing, or are venturing out on your own, have an emergency plan in place. For example, ask a family member to call you at a certain time to make sure you’re okay, or get a device that can communicate in areas with no cell coverage.
- Exercise in bouts.
Exercise does not have to be some prolonged form of torture. Instead, you can exercise in short periods of 10 minutes and still reap the benefits of exercise. This can be especially forgiving for people with asthma, as it gives you opportunity to rest between sessions.
Cautions to Take While Exercising
To be safe, you should also familiarize yourself with things to watch out for during exercise if you have asthma. That way, you’ll know to stop all activity and use your rescue inhaler if you experience symptoms like:
- Coughing and wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Difficulty speaking
For many people, asthma is a regular part of everyday life, but thanks to modern medicine, many go on to live full and active lives. You just need to know the right way to do the same. So make an appointment with your doctor today to see how you can become more active.