So, I kind of got incredibly busy for the rest of June and had to leave my asthma education month stuff on its own for a while. Which is unfortunate. However, i don’t want to wait until next year to finish the posts I had planned, so I’ll just continue the asthma education series and post whenever I feel like it.
So. This post was a hard one to write without coming off as being elitist or body shaming. If I am, please let me know so I can rewrite it, because that’s not the vibe I want to give here at all.
Moving on: The other hand of the lifestyle coin, when it comes to asthma control, is exercise. Exercise is associated with improved asthma control, according to the best available data. Exercise has a number of other benefits, including healthier cardiovascular system, improved mental health, improved lung capacity, and improved exercise tolerance. For this reason, it’s been advised since the 1980s for people with asthma to exercise.
I will not lie: Exercise can trigger your asthma, and that can range from merely unpleasant to downright scary. However, if you work with your doctor, a plan can usually be devised to allow you to exercise without attacks. Some asthmatic people (myself included) have to take some medicine before we do certain types of exercise. Other asthmatic people find that just having a longer, slower warmup helps.
I will also not lie on the next point: If you are sedentary and you have exercise-triggered asthma, exercise will not be comfortable. It probably will induce symptoms. The best available evidence, however, suggests that if you keep at it, your exercise-induced asthma will gradually become less severe, your exercise tolerance will increase, and your overall asthma control will improve.
(note that this is not the case for exercise-induced bronchospasm, which is thought to be a type of lung repetitive strain injury from high-performance exercise and unlike asthma, is not inflammatory or chronic. EIB will tend not to improve without treatment, even if you push through it with your exercise)
Since exercise can be for many people a trigger, exercising with very poorly controlled asthma or during a flareup can be dangerous. As well, starting a new exercise plan without consulting your doctor might be dangerous. If you want to increase your fitness level, talk to your doctor about what to do and when if you want to exercise but are an asthmatic who is triggered by exercise. Get a plan for how much asthma symptoms are safe for you to tolerate and how soon you can return to exercise once a flare is under control.
There is no hard evidence on what, if any, exercises are better for people with asthma, though many asthmatics (myself included) find that sustained, high-intensity exercises like endurance running to be hard on us while exercises that vary in intensity or which require careful control of breathing like martial arts or swimming to be easier on us. Try out many things and see what is easier on you.
Exercise is not a silver bullet for asthma – it will not replace your daily control medicine, nor will you ever stop an attack in its tracks with some jumping jacks. However, evidence is mounting that regular exercise plays an important role in asthma control and quality of life for people with asthma. If it’s possible for you, starting a new exercise routine may be a good idea for helping your overall health and asthma control.
In my next post in the series, I’ll talk a bit about asthma gear – what gadgets people with asthma can carry, what they’re used for, and how they work.