Exercising with Asthma

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]Diego Ponieman, M.D. M.P.H.[/avatar]Earlier this month, in honor of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, we learned about asthma, its common triggers, and ways to help manage the condition. One of the biggest issues for people who suffer from asthma is exercise. Exercise-induced asthma can make it very difficult for people to maintain a healthy body weight and lifestyle. Despite this, it’s still essential for people with asthma to exercise regularly to stay healthy.

People who experience exercise-induced asthma must find the right balance, establishing an exercise and treatment plan that will manage asthma symptoms while staying healthy and fit. Here are some suggestions on how to exercise and stay healthy with asthma:

  • Establish Your Limits – Depending on your level of fitness, choose activities that will allow you to exercise safely. Work gradually towards more strenuous activities, listen to your body, adjust a workout depending on how you are feeling and take breaks in order to keep asthma symptoms in check.
  • Warm Up – Warming up before exercising or playing a sport is so important. It allows your body and lungs to gradually get used to the change in physical exertion. It’s more likely that you will induce asthma symptoms by going straight into an intense workout, than gradually increasing your physical activity level step by step.
  • Interval Training – Studies show that interval training is a good form of exercise for people with asthma as it alternates between periods of high-intensity activity and rest. That being said, make sure to warm up before jumping into your workout.
  • Walk, Bike and Hike – These forms of exercise are great for people with exercise-induced asthma as they engage your body physically without the risk of inducing asthma symptoms by holding you at a steady level of intensity.
  • Climate – Cold and dry air is a common asthma trigger. People who are exercising or playing sports in this type of outdoor climate should be aware of this and make sure to have a treatment plan in case their asthma is triggered.
  • Swimming – Swimming is often recommended for people with asthma because the air is moist and warm. This type of air quality is less likely to trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Team Sports – Different types of team sports are generally safer than others. Sports that favor short bursts of energy – baseball, football, short-term track & field – are usually better than sports that require continuous intense activity – soccer, basketball, cross-country. This is not to say that you cannot play those other team sports with asthma. It’s all about listening to your body, identifying your limits and finding the right balance and level of activity that works with your asthma.
  • Have a Treatment Plan – It’s important for people with asthma to have a treatment plan in place to manage asthma attacks. Though the goal is to avoid them entirely, it’s important to be prepared. Be sure to talk to your doctor in order to determine what medications or treatments are best for you to reduce asthma symptoms while exercising.

Determining what form of exercise is right for you and your asthma is not an exact science. Different activities and environments can trigger symptoms for people in a variety of ways. No matter what you are doing or where you are, it is important to be prepared to manage your asthma. It is essential to visit your doctor and establish a treatment plan, whether it be determining the best forms of exercise or what medications are best for you.

Remember to take things slow in order to manage your asthma while exercising. Get to know your limits, try things out, increase your activity level slowly, and adjust based on the way you feel. The key is being prepared, listening to your body, and finding a balance.