Exercising with asthma can be a big challenge for asthma sufferers. Two things happen inside the lungs of women suffering with Asthma constriction, the tightening of the muscles surrounding the airways, and inflammation, the swelling and irritation of the airways. Constriction and inflammation cause narrowing of the airways, by a combination of muscle spasm, mucosal swelling and bronchial secretion with symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that, if left untreated, asthma can cause long-term loss of lung function.
In the words of Henry Hyde Salter (1882), a physician at the Charing Cross Hospital, London “I have seen several cases in which prolonged bodily exertion has been of great benefit, indeed, some in which it has been the best remedy to which the asthmatic could resort.“
According to the American Council on Exercise, most asthma patients would benefit from regular exercise. Swimming has been considered an excellent exercise as one is less likely to strain muscles because the water itself can cushion each person’s unique body weight.
The fact still remains that no workout is complete without involvement of strength training. The trick is to begin slow and gradually increase on intensity.
Essentials of Strength Training
- Weights: Start with 3- to 5-pound weights or soup cans to work the upper body and lower-body. Exercises like squats, push-ups and lunges can be included in your strength training routine.
- Number of Days: Do strength training exercises three times a week. Do not replace cardio with strength training, on the other hand, you do swimming and strength training on alternate days.
- Warm-up and stretch: Whatever exercise routine you and your doctor agree to be sure and stretch adequately before and after each workout.
- Cooling Down: Perform a graduated 10- to 30-minute cool-down after vigorous exercise. This allows the temperature changes in the airways to occur gradually and reduces the risk of exercise-induced asthma.
- Inhaler Support: Always use your pre-exercise asthma inhalers (inhaled bronchodilators) before beginning exercise. A generic inhaler such as albuterol may provide you with more immediate relief and you would basically take just one puff and that’s it – when you have symptoms. The albuterol helps relax any swelling in the breathing tubes of your lungs. You should use asthma medication 15 minutes before exercising. Take 4 different puffs of blue reliever (Asmol, Epaq, Ventolin or Airomir). Take one puff at the time via spacer device. Take 3 breaths from the spacer after each puff of medication! Wait up to 5 minutes and until you do not feel attack symptoms anymore. If the symptoms do not stop, then use your blue reliever as before and stop with exercise. Visit your doctor and inform him/her about it!
- Breathing: Exhale while lifting, take a short breath in between reps, and breath in while lowering the weight. this doesn’t work for all lifts, but you will find it helpful.
Avoid going beyond 70 to 80% of max of your cardio level as this will decrease the likelihood of you encountering any additional stress. In case of an attack during workout, stop exercising immediately.
Remember: asthma is not a reason to avoid exercise. With proper diagnosis and the most effective treatment, you CAN enjoy the benefits of an exercise program without experiencing asthma symptoms.