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Asthma and exercise. To do or not to do?

In the month that celebrates World Asthma Day, let’s explore how exercise affects asthma, along with ideal activities for people with this condition.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways in your lungs. It makes the airways inflamed and swollen, causing symptoms like coughing and wheezing. This can make it difficult to breathe.

Sometimes, aerobic exercise can trigger or worsen asthma-related symptoms. When this happens, it’s called exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). You can have EIB even if you don’t have asthma.

If you do have EIB, you might be hesitant to workout. But having it doesn’t mean you should avoid regular exercise. It’s possible for people with EIB to workout with comfort and ease.

In fact, regular physical activity can decrease asthma symptoms by improving your lung health. The key is to do the right kind – and amount – of exercise. You can determine what this looks like for you by working with a doctor.

Some types of exercise can reduce or prevent asthma symptoms. They work by making your lungs stronger without worsening inflammation. For example:

  • Increase endurance. Over time, working out can help your airways build up tolerance to exercise. This makes it easier for your lungs to perform activities that usually make you winded, like walking up stairs.
  • Reduce inflammation. Though asthma inflames the airways, regular exercise can actually decrease inflammation. It works by reducing inflammatory proteins, which improves how your airways respond to exercise.
  • Improve lung capacity. The more you work out, the more your lungs get used to consuming oxygen. This decreases how hard your body must work to breathe on a daily basis.
  • Strengthen muscle. When your muscles are strong, the body functions more efficiently during everyday activities.
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness. Exercise improves the overall conditioning of the heart, improving blood flow and the delivery of oxygen.

In general, the best exercises for asthma involve brief bursts of exertion. Gentle, low-intensity activities are also ideal. These exercises don’t overwork your lungs, so they’re less likely to cause asthma symptoms. You can try swimming, walking or recreational biking.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if your symptoms are caused by asthma or just being “out of shape”. In both cases, the usual symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, sore throat or upset stomach. Typically, these symptoms start after five to 20 minutes of working out. They might continue for 10 to 15 minutes after you stop exercising. It’s common to have these symptoms if you’re out of shape.

If you have EIB or asthma, the symptoms will be significantly more severe and will likely include coughing and wheezing. Another sign of EIB is excess mucus production. This occurs due to airway inflammation and usually won’t happen because of poor fitness condition.

Even if you have asthma, you shouldn’t avoid exercise altogether.

Regular physical activity is essential for managing health, improving energy, and reducing the risk of chronic disease. If you already have a chronic condition, regular exercise can help you manage it.

Article submitted by HPA Group