Exercise Can Improve Asthma Symptoms

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Experts believe asthma shouldn’t prevent someone from exercising, as long as they’re working with their doctor to do it safely. In fact, exercise can improve asthma symptoms by expanding the person’s lung capacity.

A staggering 10 percent of Olympic athletes have asthma, and manage to keep it under control just fine. The National Asthma Control Initiative recommends using inhaled corticosteroids, developing an asthma treatment plan with your doctor, and doing your best to control environmental triggers like dust and mold. You should also have your rescue medications with you while exercising, in case of an emergency.

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Some people experience exercise-induced bronchoconstriction — sometimes called exercise-induced asthma (EIA) or exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath — but coughing is the most common symptom. Symptoms usually begin during exercise, and will worsen about 5-10 minutes after you stop exercising, although some people experience “late phase” symptoms 4-12 hours later.

People with exercise-induced asthma may want to take a “pre-treatment” approach, using their inhaler 10-15 minutes before exercising, and then warming up gradually for 10-15 minutes. If you’re exercising in cold weather, it can also help to breathe through your nose so your airways won’t dry out.

Experts say it’s a matter of choosing forms of exercise that don’t exacerbate your asthma, and monitoring how you feel.

  • Walking three times a week for 12 weeks can improve a person’s asthma control and boost their fitness levels without provoking an asthma attack.
  • Running should be done with caution. A high school teacher in Maryland ran regularly for three years before her asthma suddenly flared up and she could barely run for a minute. Her doctor encouraged her to keep running to expand her lung capacity, so she learned to manage her symptoms and run when she felt she was able.
  • Yoga can help with breath control, and activate more areas of the lung.
  • Swimming may be the ideal sport for someone with asthma, because the pool air is warm and highly humidified — and the horizontal posture helps to loosen mucus.
  • Playing basketball or soccer can be rough because there’s not a lot of downtime to catch your breath. But it can actually improve your breath control over time, by training your lungs.
  • Cross-country skiing can be hard on people with asthma, because the strenuous activity and cold air both dry out your airways. Downhill skiing is safer for people with asthma, because you’re not working as hard.
  • Stop-and-start sports like baseball, volleyball, football, and tennis are less likely to trigger an asthma attack, because there’s built-in downtime. (Activities where you’re breathing hard for more than 5-6 minutes are more likely to trigger an attack.)
  • Biking is safe when it’s done at a leisurely pace, but you might find that pedalling vigorously — or mountain biking — could bring on asthma symptoms.

If your child has asthma, how do they exercise — and how does it affect them?

H/T The StarPhoenix

Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

3 Comments to Exercise Can Improve Asthma Symptoms

  1. Tiffany

    This is great, thanks Heather! I think we’ll follow our plan to try Z in a yoga class now that I’ve read this!!

    • That sounds great, Tiffany! There are some kids’ yoga classes in our area, and they look like a lot of fun.

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