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How to Exercise if You’re Asthmatic

Exercise and Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disorder of the respiratory airways, affecting 235 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organisation best estimates.  4.1 million people are treated in the UK alone, although many more are likely undiagnosed.

Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in chest. These symptoms may vary in severity from person to person.

There is currently no cure for asthma, but the majority of cases can be well controlled by following a  treatment and management plan. Should you be experiencing these symptoms, please contact your GP who will be able to assess you via simple breathing tests and discussion of your symptoms. An annual asthma review is important because it will help you manage your condition and give you the opportunity to have your inhaler technique assessed.

Tips for Exercising with Asthma

check list Exercising will improve your cardiorespiratory function, ultimately leading to a  reduction in breathlessness, which is one of the most common asthma symptoms.

check list Use your reliever inhaler (typically Salbutamol/Ventolin) 20 minutes before exercise.

check list  Use your reliever inhaler (typically Salbutamol/Ventolin) during exercise, should you experience your asthmatic symptoms.  

check list But remember, it’s perfectly normal to feel shortness of breath during exercise, even if you’re not asthmatic!

Managing Exercise and Asthma

Keep a diary and note the irritants that impact  your ability to exercise. Keep notes on the timing/frequency of symptoms, the likely irritant and the effect of the inhaler. Being able to recognise a change in your symptoms will aid your self management.

Typical asthmatic irritants:

bullet    Weather Conditions: Cold air can cause irritation. Many people with asthma inhale via the mouth. If this sounds like you, concentrate on inhaling through your nose as this this will naturally warm and filter the irritating cold air.  You can also try wrapping a scarf lightly around your mouth and nose as another layer of air humidification.

bullet    Seasonal: High pollen count is a typical irritant. Ensure you’re taking appropriate hay fever medication. If the pollen count is still affecting your ability to exercise, consider exercising indoors.

bullet   Pollution: Increased levels of pollution can be an irritant. Try and find parks or quieter roads to exercise. Avoid main roads and rush hour traffic.

bullet    Chemical irritants: Pool chlorine can be an asthma trigger, so be careful if you add swimming to your exercise routine. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, but just make sure you are safe and remember to bring your inhaler to the poolside.

Written by Rob Davies, Physiotherapy Student