Don’t Let Asthma Stop You From Exercising

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Amelia Phillips

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Spring has arrived!

It’s a sign of relief, as finally the warm weather brings back the motivation to get outdoors, socialise, soak up the sun and, most importantly, get out and exercise. Any personal trainer or group fitness leader will tell you spring is a like the flick of a switch – winter blues have disappeared and everyone is focused (slightly panicking) on getting fit and healthy for summer.

Despite the warmer weather and the fresh flowery waft in the air, some of us see the start of spring as the beginning of hay fever, sneezing, running noses and asthma attacks. Yes, you all – I hear you! Pollen and air pollution are often higher during this time of the year triggering allergies among millions of people, causing discomfort and sometimes forcing them back indoors.

Spring, Pollen and Asthma — the deadly threesome

There are over 19 million people worldwide that suffer from Asthma and according to Asthma Australia 10% of the Australian population also suffer. Asthma sufferers, in particular, avoid spending a lot of time outside because of the pollen that can trigger their asthma, as well as irritate while exercising. Asthma is a condition of the airways and those that have it, have sensitive airways in their lungs.

When exercising you breathe faster through your mouth, which cuts out the normal warming process, causing colder/dryer air in your airways that irritate and tighten the muscles around them.

People with asthma have triggers that may include aerosols, gardens, mould, pollen, colds, hormones, food and exercise. With a good asthma management plan in place however, there is no reason to avoid exercise.

Manage Asthma and Exercise

In fact, latest research out of the University of Palermo show that building up fitness can actually ‘help cut the severity of their breathing difficulties’ and help control the amount of medication you need. Like anyone with an injury or illness you just need to take the right precautionary steps to remain safe. It seems ‘scuba diving’ may be the only activity that needs consideration.

The following tips are recommended for asthma sufferers on pre and post exercise:

  • Always use your pre-exercise asthma medicine before commencing exercise and refer to your action plan;
  • Always keep your inhaler handy – if you have asthma symptoms when you are training, stop and take it, wait a few minutes for the symptoms to stop before starting again;
  • Perform appropriate warm up and cool down exercises;
  • Monitor pollen counts or air pollution and if they are too high, exercise indoors;
  • Limit exercise if you have a ‘viral infection’ (e.g. cold);
  • Exercise at a level that is appropriate for you. Shortness of breath may not always be a symptom; it could be that you are still working on your fitness levels.

Some great activities for asthma sufferers are sports such as volleyball or netball because it involves short, ‘intermittent periods’ of exertion, swimming, as well as aerobics, running (shorter distances) and walking. That’s not to say asthma sufferers can’t be involved in every type of activity – athletes with Asthma have won Olympic gold medals!

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