Asthma is a disease condition of the airways and lungs that presents as wheezing while breathing, dry cough, and eventually shortness of breath and choking. It is currently incurable, treatment is aimed at managing symptoms, reducing incidences of occurrence, hospitalization and use of medications. It can also be controlled with a change of lifestyle.
Regular exercise is one of the lifestyle changes that help control asthma. Since asthma and exercise affects breathing, is it advisable to get involved in it you might be wondering? Can exercise really be beneficial to you? Yes, it benefits you more than living a sedentary lifestyle which in no time makes regular activities like walking, stairs climbing, lawn mowing, and so forth a task.
Studies have shown that regular exercise is beneficial to the health and proper functioning of people living with asthma. Some of such benefits are:
It boosts the Immune System.
According to a research paper by James E. Turner and John P. Cambell, exercise, contrary to some studies does not suppress but rather boosts the immune system. In this article, it is reported that when you are involved in a low intensity exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, and bike riding for about 30 minutes, the body senses it as a physiological stressors and releases specialized immune cells (mostly T-cells) from all over the body into the blood stream. They circulate in the body during exercise, detect and destroy pathogens in the body. These immune cells are released more than normal during exercise.
After exercise, these cells start to reduce in the bloodstream, going below resting level. This is why scientist think the immune system is suppressed) but they are not actually inactive, rather deployed to other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, heart, intestines, to other parts where infections could be found and eliminated.
The more regularly you exercise, the more these cells are released for an immune boost.
Exercise Helps Your Lungs Work Better
Not only does Exercise build up the physical muscles and strength, it also strengthens the lungs. During exercise, your body works harder, using more energy. It uses up more energy and releases more carbon(iv)oxide. To keep up with this, the body needs more oxygen. In order for the body to secure more oxygen, there’s an increase in breathing, a function of the lungs, assisted by the heart. Breathing increases from about 15 times per Minutes (12 liters of air) when inactive to about 40-60 times per minute (100 liters of air) while exercising. The lungs inhale oxygen and exhale carbon(iv)oxide, while the heart pumps oxygen to the muscles involved in the exercise. This way, the lungs are built up, more than if you are not exercising. It also stores up a reservoir of air so that although you might be short of breath, you cannot be out of breath.
It keeps the extra weight off
Asthma is more common among obese than normal body weight individuals. Obesity increases the rates of asthma occurrence, use of medications, hospitalization and risks associated with asthma. Regular exercise, not only helps you lose weight and keep it off, but helps to improve your lung function, airways responsiveness to medication, reduces the severity of asthma and use of medications. Keeping fit via regular exercise restores physical functions and generally makes you healthier.
Having laid this foundation, what then are the best exercises for people living with asthma?
Asthma Best Exercises
Not every exercise is ideal for asthmatics. Before you get started, consult your doctor. Work from bottom up, increasing the length and intensity of your work out as your strength increases. The best exercises for asthma are low-intensity exercises that allow you take periodic breaks. Exercises that could possibly expose you to your triggers and those done under extreme weather conditions such as ice hockey, cross country skiing, ice skating, and so forth should be avoided. Some of the best exercises for asthma are
Yoga is a gentle, ancient sports with diverse benefits. It tones the muscles, controls the mind, and helps with breathing through useful breathing exercises called pranayama. These breathing exercises help improve lung function, while certain poses such as the cobra pose stretches the chest and diaphragm.
Water sports is safe for asthma. The inhaled air is moist and devoid of debris. It is also a leisurely activity that can be done at your own pace. Asthmatics, such as Michael Phelps have gone on to have successful careers as swimmers.
Walking is a low intensity exercise which involves every muscle in the body. It is recommended you take a walk for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week. You could take leisurely or brisk walks, alone or with someone. Another great benefit of walking is that it can be done with or without an exercise equipment, outdoors or indoors. When the weather is good and dust/pollen free, short, outdoor walks are recommended. This enables your lungs take in bouts of fresh air as you walk. Using a treadmill indoors during bad weather serves the same purpose.
Asthmatics take in shorter and more breaths than people who do not have asthma. They also have the tendency to be mouth breathers. Breathing through the mouth takes in cold, dry, unfiltered air into the lungs which can possibly trigger asthmatic attacks therefore consciously learning how to breathe helps a great deal with asthma. These exercises are simple and easy to learn.
- Short Distance Racing. Short distance races such as the 100meters race is ideal for people with asthma. This involves a burst of energy for a short while and then you take a rest. Sports which involve running around with intermittent breaks like football and basketball is also great. Did you know? David Beckham has asthma and has gone on to be the greatest in his field. Can you beat that?
- Biking. Leisurely biking is a refreshing exercise too. Take short rides, not exceeding your endurance limit will keep you fit and help control your asthma.
Tips For Exercising With Asthma
You are all excited and ready to set off, but hold on, read this first. Before you start any exercise, if you love or need exercise, Asthma should not deter you. If you want to pursue a career in sports, it is very possible as we have seen before. In all cases of asthma, including exercise induced asthma,
- Seek your doctor’s advice and approval before you commence.
- Use your medication as prescribed and keep them handy
- Start slowly and scale up
- Observe your symptoms and stop if it gets worse
- Let the team know you are asthmatic. Brief them on the types of medications you use and how to administer them in case of emergency