Asthma is a common lung condition that affects over 5 million people in the UK alone. Although it can be managed most of the time, asthma sufferers have to be acutely aware of their ‘triggers’: the stimuli that can set off their symptoms. Essentially anything that disrupts the breathing process can set off an attack, which includes allergens, air pollution, infections and unfortunately – exercise!
But that shouldn’t stop anyone with asthma from enjoying an active life. In fact, getting physically fit can actually help to reduce your asthma symptoms. So if you’re looking to beat that workout breathlessness, you just need a bit of know-how combined with the right approach to exercise. Let’s take a closer look.
Understanding Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA)
Exercising can certainly be a significant trigger for asthmatics. In fact, some people only experience asthma symptoms during and after exercise. This condition is often referred to as Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA) or Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB). It’ll typically exhibit all of the classic symptoms of asthma, such as:
- Wheezing while breathing
- Bouts of coughing
- Tightness around the chest
- Excess mucus production (phlegm)
Of course, you might also be feeling these effects if you’re just a bit out of shape. But if you’re experiencing severe symptoms, this might indicate EIA / EIB – particularly in the case of coughing or mucus production. If you’re unsure, you can always check with your doctor. They’ll be able to test your lung capacity and gauge your fitness level with a physical assessment.
If you do experience a flare-up of symptoms while exercising, take a break from the activity until you feel better. Try to relax and regain control of your breathing – if you’ve been prescribed a reliever inhaler, be sure to make use of it.
Can Exercise Help With Asthma Symptoms?
If exercise is triggering your asthma, you might find yourself avoiding it altogether. But abstaining from physical activity can actually make your condition worse! It’s all about striking a balance and finding an exercise routine that works for you.
In the long term, frequent physical activity can actually improve your asthma symptoms. The potential benefits include:
- A greater lung capacity
- Increased stamina
- Strengthened muscle
- Improved blood flow and oxygen delivery
- Reduced inflammation
The healthier your lungs and cardiovascular system, the better your body will be at handling your asthma. That being said, you don’t want to push yourself too hard and risk an attack. You’ll want to find an exercise that gives your airways a workout but doesn’t leave you wheezing and gasping for breath. Thankfully, there are plenty of suitable activities for asthmatics that can boost your health while being safe enough to avoid symptoms.
Asthma Friendly Exercises
Low-intensity activities that improve endurance are a great choice, and it doesn’t get any simpler than walking.
Walking at a brisk pace is a gentle aerobic exercise that gives you a lot of choice – you get to choose the distance, the route, and when and where you’ll take a rest break.
If you feel like getting back into nature, hiking can do a lot for your well-being. You’ll need to know the terrain though, as trekking over hills is more intense than rambling over flat fields. Also, keep in mind any potential allergens you might encounter – such as pollen – that can exacerbate asthma symptoms.
Swimming is also a great option. It’s an all-around exercise that can give you a major workout while being particularly suitable for asthma sufferers.
If you’re swimming in an indoor pool, you’ll be surrounded by warm and humid air which is far less likely to trigger asthma symptoms than the brisk outdoors. In addition, the sensation of water supporting your body can help to relieve chest pressure. Just make sure to check the temperature of the water before going in, particularly in open waters, and avoid overly chlorinated pools as the chemical could irritate your airways.
You can actually get involved in some pretty high-intensity sports, even if you have exercise-induced asthma. The key is to pick games that allow for moments of rest in between bursts of activity – think cricket or volleyball.
Helpful Tips For Exercising With Asthma
Whatever form of exercise you end up choosing, you should always keep in mind these symptom-reducing tips:
- Begin the activity with a warm up, and end it with a gradual cool down. This helps your body to gear up to, and recover from, higher intensity activity.
- Make sure that your exercise environment is free of triggering allergens or significant air pollution.
- Take extra care if the air is cold – you can always make use of a scarf.
- Incorporate calming breath techniques, such as abdominal breathing. Exercises such as yoga or tai chi actually centre around breathwork, which can be very beneficial for asthmatics.
- Workout with a friend or in a group. It’s a helpful safety precaution in case you do experience an asthma attack. Plus, the sense of support can be really encouraging.
Using Your Reliever Inhaler
Of course, there is one thing you should always have to hand if you suffer from asthma: an inhaler. In particular, you’ll need one that can provide instant relief, such as a Salbutamol Inhaler commonly known as the ‘blue reliever inhaler’.
A Salbutamol Inhaler is a must-have for asthma sufferers, particularly if you’re getting active and are therefore at risk of experiencing symptoms. Salbutamol inhalers contain muscle relaxants that dilate the airways of the lungs, allowing you to breathe easy and relieve yourself of wheezes, coughs and chest pressures. It’s portable, quick to use in a pinch, and could be
potentially life-saving if you’re prone to severe asthma attacks. In short, if you’re asthmatic, you shouldn’t be exercising without one.
If you use reliever inhalers, you’ll know that they have a limited amount of doses, and so will eventually need to be replaced. You never want to be missing one because your prescription ran out or you didn’t prepare ahead or stock up in time. Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to order inhalers online from licensed UK pharmacies such as e-Surgery. You simply choose your brand, the number of inhalers you need, and you’re ready to go with next day delivery at the click of a button.
As long as you’re equipped with your reliever inhaler and the right know-how, you can be as athletic as anyone – regardless of asthma!
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