How to Manage Exercise-Induced AsthmaAugust 23, 2019
How to Manage Exercise-Induced Asthma
Exercise is an important ingredient to a healthy life. However, it isn't always easy for everyone. This is especially true if you have asthma. Push yourself too hard or work out in the wrong weather and your asthma symptoms can flare up. This is called exercise-induced asthma. But by being smart about physical activity, you can actually help reduce asthma's health impacts. This process starts with understanding why flare-ups occur and what kinds of exercise are less likely to cause them.
How Exercise Impacts Asthma — Bad and Good
Exercise can cause problems for people with asthma because it changes how we breathe. Normally, we breathe in through our nose. This warms air before it reaches the lungs. Plus, the nose helps filter out allergens, pollutants and other symptom triggers. When we exercise, our bodies need more oxygen, so we often start breathing in through the mouth. This can bring air that's too cold or too hot into the lungs, along with irritants that can cause symptoms to arise.
But fear of flare-ups shouldn't keep you trapped on the sofa. Exercise also offers numerous benefits for people with asthma, including:
Improved lung function. Exercise can strengthen the muscles that help us breathe.
Healthier immune system. Being active can help boost your immune system. This could mean fewer colds and other respiratory illnesses.
Weight loss. Losing weight can help reduce the odds of an asthma attack.
Higher endorphin levels. Exercise releases hormones called endorphins that help us feel happier. This can reduce feelings of stress and depression.
What Exercise Works?
Choosing the right activities will help you get the biggest benefits from exercising, with less risk of health complications. Some of your best options include:
- Swimming. In addition to building up lung function, swimming also can bring warm, moist air into the lungs.
- Yoga. A 2012 study found that a 10-week yoga training program improved quality of life for a group of women with asthma.
- Walking, biking and hiking. By keeping a leisurely pace, you can get the exercise benefits with low risk of symptoms.
Team sports. Sports that require short bursts of energy — like baseball, football and sprint running — are less likely to cause flare-ups.
Tips for Staying Healthy
In general, activities that require long periods of exertion are more likely to cause problems. These include sports like field hockey and soccer, along with long-distance running. Other tips for staying healthy while keeping active include:
Take care in the cold. Cold-weather sports, like cross-country skiing and ice hockey, might pose problems. Wear a scarf or mask over your nose and mouth to help warm and moisten air you’re breathing in.
Always warm up first. Include 10-minute warm-ups and cool-downs before and after exercise. This can help ease your airways into the activity and help them readjust afterward.
Don’t exercise while sick. Wait until you’ve fully recovered from any illness before hitting the gym again. This is especially important if you’ve had a cold or other upper respiratory illness.
Stay prepared. Always keep a rescue inhaler with you. In fact, using a fast-acting inhaler 15 minutes before exercising can help minimize potential problems.