Asthma and Exercise

Stay Fit While Preventing Asthma Attacks


Do you sometimes wheeze when you exercise? Wheezing doesn’t necessarily mean that you have asthma, but there is a pretty good chance you may have issues with the flow of air into and out of your lungs. An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, according to the World Health Organization, and 20 million are in the US alone.

Asthma is often suspected when you experience wheezing, chest tightness, coughing or shortness of breath within 5 to 20 minutes after starting to exercise. The good news is that having asthma doesn’t need to keep you from enjoying your workout, but strenuous exercise can make wheezing worse for many people. Dry air, cold temperatures, and air pollutants such as high pollen levels or air pollution can trigger your airways to close off and limit your airflow, thus making you wheeze. Also, people with allergies may have trouble breathing during exercise.

Diagnosing Asthma

Your doctor, who will ask you a few questions, examine your chest, and listen to your breath, can make the diagnosis of asthma. In addition, your doctor may possibly order a few tests such as blood work, a chest x-ray and a breathing test called a spirometry test. If you are diagnosed with asthma, allergies or simply exercise-induced asthma, there are precautions you can take to make sure you get the most out of your exercise program. The trick is to make sure asthma is well controlled with medication and to choose your activity carefully. Some are good choices; others may be more of a challenge.

The Importance of Breath In Your Workout

In order to get the best out of your workout, your breathing needs to be smooth and easy and well controlled in terms of airflow. Good airflow into and out of your lungs is essential to bring oxygen into your lungs, then into your blood stream where it is carried to your vital organs. If inflow of air is impeded, your oxygen intake can drop which will lead to not having the stamina or reserves to complete your workout.

Just as important is the outflow of air from your lungs because as your muscles work, you create carbon dioxide gases, which require functional lungs in order to blow out the gases and thus remove them from your body. Any process that impairs the inflow or outflow of air from your lungs will cause you to feel poorly and not be at your peak for exercise.

The Right Activities and Exercises For Asthmatics

The goal of an asthma treatment plan is to keep your symptoms under control so that you can enjoy exercising or sports activities. However, there are some activities that are better for people with exercise-induced asthma. For instance, swimmers are exposed to warm, moist air as they exercise, which does not tend to trigger asthma symptoms. Swimming also helps strengthen upper body muscles.

Walking, leisure biking and hiking are also good sporting activities for people with asthma. Team sports that require short bursts of energy, such as baseball, football and short-term track and field are less likely to cause symptoms than sports that have a lot of ongoing activity such as soccer, basketball, field hockey or long-distance running.

Cold weather activities such as cross-country skiing and ice hockey are more likely to make symptoms worse, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, you should be able to participate and excel in almost any sport or activity. Keep in mind that if you are in the midst of a bad allergy season or you have been experiencing a bad cold or respiratory infection with coughing, wheezing, fevers or chest pains, it’s probably time to see your doctor and skip your exercise program.

When in doubt, ask your doctor if exercise is safe for you or when you should resume your normal exercise routines. Just because you wheeze doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of excellent fitness.

Until next time, keep strong and keep moving!!

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