Since heavy breathing and exercise go hand-in-hand, it’s understandable why someone with asthma would want to limit physical activity.
According to the American Lung Association, asthma symptoms are triggered during exercise because you breathe harder and lose water from your lungs. The water loss causes the temperature of the lungs to drop, which may then cause shortness of breath and wheezing.
But asthma doesn’t mean a life sentence of sitting on the sidelines — just ask one of the many Olympians or professional athletes with asthma. Many physical activities are safe for people with asthma. So, get off the couch and get moving with these asthma-friendly exercise options.
If you want to exercise both your mind and body, yoga may be right for you. Believed to provide natural relief for asthma symptoms, yoga is a perfect balance of strength building and deep breathing exercises. Yoga helps open airways and promotes air flow through the lungs and bronchial tubes.
The benefits of yoga extend far beyond the respiratory system, too. Yoga is also great for reducing stress, increasing flexibility, and improving balance.
Get moving: Try these 8 poses recommended for asthma relief. And practice from Bikram yoga with caution — the hot temperatures (up to 105 degrees) may be too much for asthmatics.
Image via Flickr by Jim Bahn
Swimming has long been a preferred activity for asthma sufferers. It’s believed the high humidity and warm air from being in the water helps reduce the stress on the lungs typically caused by exercise. The horizontal body position likely plays a role in keeping the airways open. Swimming also relies on air flow, which in turn helps strengthen the muscles used for breathing.
Get moving: Swim in a well-ventilated, heated pool. Avoid highly chlorinated pools, which may trigger asthma symptoms for some.
Walking can be adapted to anyone’s physical ability, making it ideal for anyone with asthma since you can easily slow down or take a break when you need it. You don’t need to speed walk to get the full benefits of walking either. Just 30 minutes a day of walking at a moderate pace can greatly improve your physical health. The hardest thing about walking is coming up with excuses; it doesn’t require fancy equipment or a gym membership, so you can do it almost anywhere.
Get moving: A daily two-mile walk around your neighborhood is enough to get your heart rate up. When it’s cold and dry outside, walk indoors on a treadmill.
Like walking, biking is a good option for asthmatics since it allows you to control the intensity and speed of your work out. Biking is also a low impact work out, so if you suffer from bad knees and back pain, your body will thank you. It’s the perfect excuse to spend time outdoors, too. When the weather is bad, you can use a stationary bike indoors and reap the same benefits.
Get moving: Stick to a leisurely pace and avoid mountain biking, where steep curves and inclines will get you breathing too heavily.
Tips for Exercising with Asthma
Regardless of how you choose work out, you’ll still need to remain vigilant of how your body reacts and be ready to take action in case you experience asthma symptoms. Remember these pointers for limiting asthma symptoms during exercise.
- Do a proper warm up and cool down. Spend 5-10 minutes doing each to help your lungs transition.
- Stay away from activities with sustained exertion. Avoid activities without frequent breaks, like basketball or soccer.
- Avoid environments that will bring on an asthma attack. Exercising outdoors in dry, cold air is bad for asthma, so also limit cold weather sports like skiing or snowboarding.
- Always have an inhaler with you while exercising. Just because an activity is recommended for asthma sufferers doesn’t mean you’ll be immune from experiencing symptoms.
- Try the “talk” test. You should be able to hold a conversation while working out, otherwise you may be over exerting yourself.
- Get your doctor’s OK. Consult your physician before beginning a new exercise program.
It’s no surprise there’s a link between asthma and obesity, since many people with asthma think physical activities are off limits. By knowing your limits and choosing an exercise program that’s less likely to exasperate asthma symptoms, you can stay in shape while keeping asthma attacks at bay. And be sure to ease into your exercise routine. You’ll most likely find that as your fitness improves, you’ll be able to increase the intensity of your work outs without suffering any asthma symptoms.