Asthmatic Sirpa Ärmänen likes to keep fit by playing golf

Health | 8/23/2022
Asthmatic Sirpa Ärmänen likes to keep fit by playing golf
Golf has been part of Sirpa Ärmänen's life for over 20 years. Her social hobby provides brisk outdoor exercise – and helps with asthma.

Graphic designer Sirpa Ärmänen looks forward to spring each year because the melting of snow means the beginning of a new golf season. Ärmänen, who lives in Vantaa in Finland, first played the sport over 20 years ago when she joined a workplace golf club. She has been a keen player ever since, and not even a more recent asthma diagnosis has decreased her enthusiasm – quite the opposite.

According to Ärmänen, golf and asthma go well together. Golf is good for long-lasting aerobic exercise and keeping fit. Research shows that physical activity is key when treating asthma because it supports the respiratory system, muscle condition, and immune system.

It can easily take 10,000 steps to complete one round. Fresh air and time spent with others are great for mental well-being too.

“I enjoy spending time outdoors but I don't think I would be walking for four hours straight if it wasn't for golf. You need to maintain a basic level of fitness in order to move, hit the ball, and concentrate. There are many beautiful courses in Finland and abroad, where playing is a pleasure“, she says.

Watch a short video about Sirpa's thoughts about golf and asthma:

Medication gave relief

Ärmänen, who recently turned 60, received asthma diagnosis in 2005 after a prolonged lung infection. It was suspected that she might have asthma even before the incident, but it was only when Ärmänen had a bad asthma attack during a walk that she made an appointment with her occupational health care provider, and was sent for medical examination.

“I always denied having asthma and it was quite difficult for me to accept the diagnosis. On the other hand, it was a relief to get medication that keeps my asthma under control, “ she says.

Ärmänen's asthma attacks occurred at first during exercise but her current medication is so effective that she can lead a normal life. Her asthma symptoms can worsen when it gets very cold during winter, and catching flu usually feels worse than usual. This has helped Ärmänen understand the importance of rest.

“I'm that type of a person who keeps working even when ill. A doctor once gave ma a sick note and said to me that I must rest if the situation requires. I have since then learned to listen to myself better, and I now recognise the symptoms that can make my asthma worse.“


Relaxed attitude increases well-being

Ärmänen plays golf around three times a week, and often more when she is on holiday. Some people practice their swings during winter but Ärmänen doesn't get too excited about training indoors. She thinks that walking outdoors and socialising are what make the sport.

“The best part of golf is playing together with others“, she says.

Apart from exercise, Ärmänen considers sleep and rest key to her well-being. She tries to avoid stress and takes rest days when needed. Using a smart watch made her realize that she wasn't sleeping enough, which made her change her habits.

“I relearned how to sleep because it is so important to my health. When I don't sleep well I start to feel shaky, and I have to do breathing exercises“, she says.

She has learned to relax when doing sports too. She used to be more goal-orientated and actively took part in golf competitions until she realized that her game had gotten too serious. Nowadays she might organize a playful competition with her golf mates where the prize is a cup of coffee and a bun at the gold club. This way she can keep the joy in her game.

“I don't want to take golf too seriously. Being too ambitious wasn't fun anymore, and I wasn't a very nice person to play with. This way I have much more fun, which is good for my overall well-being too.“



L.Tyson, W. Hardeman, M.Marquette, J. Semlyen, G.Stratton, A. M. Wilson, A systematic review of the characteristics of interventions that promote physical activity in adults with asthma, Journal of Health psychology December 2021

By Laura Iisalo
Video and photo by Juho Paavola

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Orion Corporation is a globally operating Finnish pharmaceutical company. We develop, manufacture and market human and veterinary pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. The dry powder inhaler developed at Orion is in the core of our respiratory therapy area.