Having asthma does not mean that you cannot exercise. However, if you have any limitations in your ability to exercise because of your asthma, your asthma is not being controlled properly.
If your asthma is not controlled and you exercise, you may experience worsening symptoms. If this it the case, you need to take steps to first regain total asthma control prior to resuming your exercise program. The inability to exercise without symptoms is a sign of poor asthma control. Talk to your doctor about this. Once you have total control, you will be able to exercise without asthma symptoms.
If your asthma is under control and you experience asthma symptoms five or 10 minutes after exercising, this is probably due to exercise-induced asthma (EIA).
Exercise-induced asthma occurs because the airways are sensitive to temperature and humidity changes, especially when breathing in cold, dry air through the mouth. Air that passes through the mouth is bypassing the nose, which normally humidifies and warms the air prior to its reaching the lungs.
The diagnosis of exercise-induced asthma is made by performing a breathing test (spirometry) at rest and then again following exercise. If there is a measured decrease in the speed of air that can be breathed out following exercise, this indicates exercise-induced asthma, or EIA, is present.
Contributing factors to exercise-induced asthma include:
- How long you exercise
- How hot or cold it is
- How humid it is
- Whether allergens, air pollution or other possible triggers are present while you exercise
It’s important to note that the benefits of regular exercise almost always outweigh the risks associated with exercise-induced asthma.
These benefits include:
- Improved efficiency of the heart and lungs
- Increased muscle strength and endurance
- Improved flexibility and posture
- Improved ability to relax
If you’re unsure whether your symptoms are due to exercise induced asthma, or are the signs of worsening asthma control, talk to your doctor.
Once you and your doctor have established what your exercise regimen should be, keep the following in mind:
- Take your medication before starting to exercise if advised.
- Start your regimen slowly. Take your time before attempting more demanding exercises.
- Always warm up before exercising, and cool down after.
- If you develop symptoms while you are exercising, stop and rest. Take your reliever medication.
- If you usually exercise outdoors and it’s cold out, opt for indoor exercise.
- If you usually exercise outdoors and the pollution or pollen counts are high, exercise indoors instead.
The Role Of Relievers
If your doctor has given you a physical examination and determined that you have exercise-induced asthma he or she may recommend that you use your reliever medication 10 to 20 minutes before you begin exercising. This can help reduce the likelihood that symptoms associated with exercise-induced asthma will flare up.