Exercising With Asthma

Exercise Induced Bronchoconstriction

For people Diagnosed and Exercising With Asthma, the the winter and spring seasons can present a new series of challenges for exercising during these months. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs, where the bronchioles (small pipes that deliver oxygen to the lung tissue) become hyper-responsive to various allergens in the air (including dust, pollen, smoke, pet hair, cold air or even exercise). This leads to narrowing of the airway and increased secretion of mucous that can further plug the airways and cause an obstruction. Asthmatic patients typically experience feelings of shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing or coughing.

Managing Asthma

Asthma can be a life-threatening condition if poorly managed but can be relatively well controlled with the use of inhaled relieving medications (e.g. salbutamol puffer) or preventative medications such as an inhaled corticosteroid to prevent inflammation in the lungs or long-acting bronchodilators to open up the airways. These medications are typically used to develop a specialised asthma action plan for each individual to manage their specific symptoms. It is important to note that these action plans should be regularly reviewed by your general practitioner (GP) and adjusted as necessary to ensure that asthma is continually well controlled.

Exercising With Asthma

Some asthmatics experience symptoms specifically during exercise, termed exercise induced asthma/bronchoconstriction. This is thought to occur due to inadequate humidification of air during exercise via increased evaporative fluid loss from the lungs following an increased rate of breathing during exercise. This can lead to a cooling and drying of the airways which can precipitate symptoms. The prevention of exercise induced asthma starts with developing a good asthma action plan to control symptoms. Recommendations suggest also developing an “exercise induced asthma action plan” to specifically address asthma brought on by exercise, such as using relieving medications prior to exercise to prevent symptoms. If you have asthma and are considering starting exercising, talk to your GP about developing an action plan for asthma during exercise. The following are some additional tips for exercising with asthma and for preventing exercise induced asthma:
1. Make sure you have your relieving medications close by. If not, it is best not to exercise until you have them handy
2. Make your warm up a little longer than usual such as including 10 minutes of activity that slowly progresses (e.g. walking to jogging) until mild sweating begins to occur
3. Don’t overdo it initially. Start with a lower intensity and gradually build up as your fitness improves. Trying to overexert yourself too early may increase the risk of developing asthma symptoms
4. Have a prolonged warm down period of gradually lowering intensity at the end of each session.
5. Aim to improve your aerobic fitness through exercise. Improving your fitness means that subsequent exercise at the same intensity can be completed easier, which is thought to reduce the risk of exercise induced asthma.

If you have asthma and are struggling Exercising With Asthma and are considering becoming more active, consider giving one of our Exercise Physiologists a call at Functional Health for advice about how to exercise safely and effectively.

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1. Morton AR(1), Fitch KD. Australian association for exercise and sports science position statement on
exercise and asthma. J Sci Med Sport. 2011 Jul;14(4):312-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2011.02.009. Epub
2011 Mar 26.