Exercising with Asthma

World Asthma Day, an annual awareness day organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world occurs next Tuesday May 7th.  According to WHO estimates, 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide, which can cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. As a result of these symptoms, many people who suffer from asthma tend to avoid exercise. However, according to the Asthma Society of Ireland, research has shown that a structured exercise regime can actually improve lung capacity and thus be a key contributing factor when it comes to controlling your asthma.

Top Tips for Exercising with Asthma

Be Aware of Triggers – It’s important to be aware of the most common asthma triggers in exercise such as cold air, pollen, long distance running and chlorine in swimming pools. If you find any of these triggers severely affects your asthma, perhaps restructure your exercise regime so as to avoid exposure. For example, if pollen is your trigger, check the pollen count before you go for that run, if it’s particularly high, perhaps do an indoor workout instead.

Always Warm Up – While it’s important for everyone to do a proper warm up prior to exercise, it is even more important for people who suffer from asthma. This is because a 15 minute warm up helps prepare the lungs for exercise. 

Always Carry your Reliever Inhaler – If you notice your asthma is triggered by heavy exercise, take your reliever inhaler 15-20 minutes before warm-up. This will help prevent exercise-induced airway constriction. 

Inform People you Have Asthma – If you are exercising within a team, ensure your coach and/or teammates know you have asthma in case of emergencies. If you exercise at the gym, inform them so they can make note on your file. And if you exercise alone and are prone to asthma attacks, perhaps tell someone when you are going  to do a particularly vigorous exercise and carry your phone with you.

If at any stage during your exercise you have difficulty breathing, stop, take your reliver inhaler and wait 5 minutes until you can breathe normally before resuming the activity. For more information on exercising with asthma or general living with asthma, check out Asthma Society of Ireland page.