How to Exercise Safely When You Have Asthma

Asthma is a condition characterized by a narrowing and swelling of the airways, and is often accompanied by the production of mucus. The result is that breathing becomes difficult, which can lead to coughing and wheezing.

There are numerous causes for asthma and a variety of stimuli that can trigger an asthma attack. For example, although exercise does not cause asthma, it is a common trigger of asthma. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, exercise-induced asthma is more correctly termed exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB).

It is obvious that exercise and strenuous activity cause a shortness of breath. For people with asthma, who already suffer from a narrowing and inflammation of their airways, the shortness of breath caused by exercise can easily trigger an asthma attack. The most common symptoms of EIB are:

  1. Difficulty breathing
  2. Coughing
  3. Wheezing
  4. Chest pain

The Asthma Foundation of America estimated that approximately 90% of people with asthma experience exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Since exercise is fundamentally important to maintaining one’s health, it is important for people with asthma to know the appropriate steps and medications that are required in order to exercise safely.

The main rules that people with asthma need to keep in mind in order to exercise safely include:

  1. Use a bronchodilator such as albuterol before exercising. This will open the airways, making an asthma attack less likely.
  2. Always warm up before beginning any type of strenuous activity. Between 10 and 15 minutes of stretching and slow movements can help prepare the body for more strenuous exercises.
  3. Cold weather is a well-known trigger of asthma. It follows that exercising in cold weather can creates a double risk factor for people with asthma. In order to diminish this risk, it is useful to wear a scarf or some sort of mouth covering when exercising in cold weather. This can help warm up the cold air before it reaches the lungs. Another technique to help warm up cold air before it reaches the lungs is to breathe in through the nose instead of the mouth. This will prevent cold, dry air from going directly into the lungs.
  4. It is important to know which types of weather conditions are unsuitable for xercise. For example, when it is extremely cold outside, or the air is highly polluted (whether outdoors or indoors, due to chemicals and cleaners), one should avoid these environments entirely.

The takeaway message for those of us with asthma is that exercise can be undertaken if appropriate precautions are taken. It is especially important for anyone with asthma to consult with their physician before starting any exercise program.

Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, specializes in pulmonary care. Headed by leading pulmonary specialist Dr. Avtar Parhar, our program is the most highly advanced pulmonary rehabilitation program in Monmouth County. At Laurel Bay, we focus on restorative and preventive care for those who suffer with chronic respiratory disease.

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