You may not realize you have asthma when you get out of breath from running up the stairs. Once you get diagnosed, you might feel like you have to avoid any activity or sports. You start to understand how upsetting and debilitating it can be when exercise is challenging due to asthma, especially if you like moving your body. So what happens in your body when you have an asthma episode, and how can you continue to exercise when an asthma episode can pop up?
People with asthma have breathing tubes that are extra sensitive to environmental triggers. When something triggers their airways, they become tight and swollen, making it difficult for air to move through them. These challenges can lead to bronchoconstriction, which produces shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing.
However, exercise doesn’t always promote asthma. Sometimes, it can help. Exercise increases blood flow, enhances lung capacity, and pumps oxygen through your body. Plus, some athletes like Amy Van Dyken and David Beckham have asthma, so you can successfully exercise with the condition. Here are some tips on how to exercise with asthma.
Keep up with your asthma-related care.
Your first step is discussing your asthma with your doctor and managing it. These steps could include quitting smoking or vaping, taking your prescribed inhaler daily, and anything else your doctor suggests for your asthma management plan. You should also try your best to avoid triggers, relax when your asthma flares up, engage in strength-building exercises instead of aerobic ones, and exercise with someone who knows you have asthma.
Find a reasonably intense exercise you like.
Too competitive, extreme, or intense exercise can be a recipe for disaster. However, there’s good news: there are numerous sports and exercises that are safe, like yoga, tennis, hiking, swimming, dancing, golf, biking, and baseball. Endurance sports, like soccer or long-distance racing events, can be more demanding but not impossible. You should avoid any high-endurance sports until you feel like you're ready. However, if an emergency arises, make sure to keep your inhaler with you at all times.
Build up slowly.
Those activities and sports are acceptable to participate in, but you should still be mindful, especially when trying something new. Once you’re comfortable with your asthma and assured that you’ve taken medical advice, exercise cautiously and start with a manageable activity, like a short walk, to see how your body reacts. Like with any new exercise, start slowly by doing something achievable and reward yourself by remembering that light exercise is better than nothing. It would also be best to exercise in an area you’re familiar with and bring your phone and inhaler in case of emergencies.
Understand and avoid your asthma triggers.
If you like the outdoors but have to exercise indoors because of your asthma, you could listen to and watch virtual running videos so you’ll feel like you’re outside. Also, it would be best not to underestimate your asthma and keep your doctor updated on your exercise habits. Also, try not to criticize yourself too harshly and show yourself compassion. You’re not the only person who struggles with asthma, and you shouldn’t be ashamed.
If you have asthma, exercise isn’t entirely out of the window for you. There are still some ways to exercise while taking care of your condition. The biggest thing to remember is to consult your doctor throughout the process. They’ll be able to help you and can give the best advice on what you should do.