Staying in Shape with Asthma

It’s a catch-22 with which most people with asthma can identify: regular exercise is important for those with asthma, yet exercise can also trigger an asthma attack. How can you maintain a healthy, active lifestyle when exercise causes you to cough, wheeze, and have difficulty breathing? Good news! Your allergist can help you come up with a plan to manage your asthma while remaining active.

Exercise can trigger asthma symptoms, so is it safe to exercise with asthma? Yes. In fact, there are many benefits to exercising if you have asthma. Regular exercise helps your heart and lungs work better, boosts your immune system, helps you lose weight, and create chemicals in your body that make you feel good, helping to ward off stress and depression.

Short bursts of exertion, like the kind you get when playing volleyball or baseball, or participating in gymnastics or wrestling, are good for people with asthma. Walking, biking, hiking are also beneficial, and swimming is particularly good because it helps build upper-body strength and gives you an opportunity to breathe in warm, moist air. It may be harder for you to do things that require long periods of exertion, like soccer, basketball, field hockey, and distance running. Cold weather sports like ice hockey, cross-country skiing, and ice skating, may be even more challenging. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take part in these activities if you have asthma.

Before you start any exercise program, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. An experienced asthma doctor can help you determine the best exercises for you, and prescribe asthma medications that you may find helpful. People with asthma often benefit from taking a short-acting bronchodilator about 15 minutes before they begin exercising. Your doctor can also advise you on the best practices to observe when exercising with asthma.

  • People with asthma may need to be mindful of the temperature, allergens, air quality, and pollution. If it’s very cold out, you may want to exercise indoors or wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth. If allergies trigger your asthma, pay attention to pollen counts and air pollution counts, refraining from exercising outdoors when they’re high. It’s also a good practice to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, to help filter the air and keep from triggering your asthma.
  • If you have asthma, it’s important to avoid overexerting yourself. Always warm up before you exercise, and include a cool-down routine in your exercise plan. Don’t exercise when you’re sick, and pay attention to your level of exertion, to make sure you’re exercising at a pace that’s right for you. Aim for an exercise routine that includes at least 30 minutes of exercise, four to five days a week.
  • Talk to your doctor about exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Also known as exercise-induced asthma, this just refers to the constriction of your airways during exercise that can cause asthma symptoms. If you’re experiencing exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, you may cough, wheeze, and experience chest tightness and shortness of breath. Your doctor can help you with an asthma treatment plan that includes instructions for how to handle this kind of problem. You might need to use your rescue inhalers or, in extreme cases, seek emergency medical attention.

Having a plan in place will allow you to live confidently, knowing your asthma is under control. When you call an experienced asthma doctor, you can be confident that your doctor will find the solutions you need to manage your asthma. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, both fast acting and long-term treatments are available while providing safe, effective medical care focused on controlling asthma in a comfortable environment. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about available services.