Asthma is a breathing condition that is associated with narrowing of the airways. This is caused by a combination of two processes: inflammation of the airway lining, and spasm of the muscles in the airway walls. Inflammation is usually accompanied by swelling and mucus production, which makes breathing even more strenuous.
Many people are under the impression that exercising may not be good for asthma - while regular exercise is not a cure for asthma, incorporating it into your management plan has many benefits. Regular exercise can be a great help to asthmatics, helping them to cope with the condition by strengthening the breathing muscles, boosting the immune system and assisting in keeping a healthy bodyweight. Some people who exercise regularly find they have fewer asthma attacks.
Preparing to Exercise
As an asthmatic, when preparing to exercise you should always follow the following action plan in order to exercise successfully:
- Always keep your inhaler on you at all times.
- Check that your asthma is under control, if it’s not under control, exercise could be dangerous.
- If needed, or prescribed by your doctor, take your asthma medication 10-15mins before exercising.
- Always ensure that you warm up slowly by walking, stretching or doing other low-level activities.
- After exercising, always cool down slowly, for at least 10mins, never stopping suddenly, so as to give your body time to adjust to the decrease in movement and effort.
- While exercising, you should always protect yourself from other asthma triggers, which could set off an attack. These triggers could include: cold air, smog, pollen high doses of chlorine etc. Therefore always pay close attention to the air quality and temperature where you are planning to exercise.
Managing Exercise Induced Asthma
Asthma can be made worse by exercise (also called Exercise Induced Asthma) in the following way: Normally, people breathe through their nose, which acts as an air filter, therefore helping to control the temperature and humidity of the air before it reaches your lungs. When exercising, your body wants more air so your breathing speeds up and you start breathing through your mouth to get more air. This air is not filtered, warmed or humidified which means the air that gets to your airways is cooler and drier than usual. If you are asthmatic, your airways are sensitive and don’t like cool, dry air. They react to this when the muscles around the airways begin to twitch and squeeze tighter. Tighter airways, means less space for air to pass through, which makes you wheeze and cough.
If you experience any symptoms of an attack, stop exercising and take your medication/inhaler. Then sit up and wait a few minutes to see if your symptoms improve. If there is a considerable improvement then warm up again and slowly go back to exercising. If your symptoms do not improve - take your medication again and signal for staff to call an emergency service.
Obvious symptoms of asthma induced by exercise include wheezing, shortness of breath, tight chest and coughing. Harder to notice symptoms include dizziness, stomach-ache and low energy levels.
Asthmatics should avoid exercise if they are suffering from a viral infection, when in very hot, cold or dry conditions and on days where allergies are particularly bad due to pollen.
When asthmatic you may find that some kinds of exercise are harder on your breathing than others. If your asthma is well controlled, you should be able to do every kind of exercise and sport. The one exception being Scuba Diving, which is not recommended.
So go out, start slow, exercise smart and be on your exercise path that will help you manage your asthma and leave you feeling both healthy and energized.Related Links
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