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I am not going to start by throwing random statistics about the prevalence of asthma amongst individuals. Rather, I'm going to give you my opinion then offer you a few educational facts and suggestions to asthma management while exercising. I do not like hearing, "I have asthma" as an excuse not to exercise. (Some of the world's greatest athletes have asthma. They are pictured throughout this post). I actually think it's used as a crutch and justification for poor physical activity. People are too comfortable with making excuses as to why they are inactive, and to me, asthma is the wackiest of them all. Trust, I understand living with asthma can be difficult at times. But, please don't expect me to "take it easy" on you because you have asthma, especially if you have not tried to work out or learn your physical limitations (if any). While exercising with my asthmatic friend, she actually called me a "know-it-all" when I offered her simple suggestions to increase comfort and tolerance during exercise. She basically got an attitude and rebutted my suggestions because there was NO WAY I could relate to her struggle, as I do not have asthma. That experience actually sparked this post and my desire to delve in to and diverge any misunderstandings of exercise-induced asthma.
After conducting research and learning more about the subject, I stand 100% behind my statement: using a diagnosis of asthma is not a valid excuse for inactivity!
PSA: I am not a doctor and am in no way pretending to be. Please do not take my advice if you have not consulted with your doctor prior to initiating a regular workout regime.
There are a few things that need discussing. Conditioning and Environment.
Inquire about pre-exercise inhalers. Take them 10-15 minutes before exercising. This will help reduce the inflammation in your bronchial tubes.
Learn and utilize breathing exercises as a proactive way to calm yourself down when you become physically stressed. Focus on your breathing at all times. Breath in the nose and out the mouth smoothly to regulate breathing. Utilizing these exercises can help you control your stress, remain calm, and prevent symptoms from escalating to an attack.
Take extra time to warm-up. Low aerobic exercise will prep your body for higher intensity exercise.
Build stamina. Start with low level cardio exercises, like walking, for 15 - 20 minutes at a time. Once you feel you can do it easily then consider increasing your speed slightly. Be consistent. Engage in activity at least 2 - 3 times a week. As tolerance is built, the likeliness of an attack will decrease.
Consider strength training. This form of exercise is unlikely to cause attack if you rest between sets.
Consider Interval training. This form of physical training involves bursts of high intensity work followed by periods of recovery (complete rest or lower intensity work to lower your heart rate.)
Identify your environmental triggers. If the weather is cold, exercise inside or wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth. Avoid exposure to other asthma triggers such as pollen and pollution when exercising. A warm and humid environment (like that in a pool) reduces exposure of the lungs to cool, dry air—the suspected cause of exercise-induced asthma.
Suggested Exercises for Asthmatics
Cardio (moderate - until you build your stamina and tolerance levels)
Don't live in fear of a future attack. Manage your symptoms and go for it! Rest when necessary. Of course everyone is different. Learn what works for you and exercise at that level. Develop as asthma action plan. If you begin to experience asthma symptoms during exercise, stop and use your pre-exercise inhaler. If your symptoms completely go away, you may restart exercising. If they return, stop the activity and consult with your doctor.
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