Regular exercise is good for your health and asthma controlHealth | 1/19/2022
When asking from a science perspective, the benefits of regular exercising are undeniable.
Not only does moderate physical activity reduce pain and lower blood sugar, but regular exercise can also improve asthma control and reduce shortness of breath. According to a study in Canada, there were significant improvements in aerobic fitness among participants with asthma who followed a 12-week exercise program, along with improvements in their quality of life and a reduction in the use of asthma rescue medications.
“We know that good aerobic fitness improves asthma control,” confirms Jari Parkkari, Professor of Sports and Exercise Medicine at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.
In fact, exercise is considered an important part of managing your asthma. But how much exercise can make a difference?
“We have international physical activity recommendations that outline that adults should have 2.5 to 3 hours of light to moderate physical activity per week,” says Parkkari. “That is true for those with asthma, too. And this is the lower end of the scale.”
Every bit counts – how to snack activities through the day
Getting daily physical activity in can take the shape of planned workouts or by adding up smaller increments throughout the day – a technique Parkkari calls “snacking.”
“Physical activity can come in a variety of forms, which includes doing your commute to work or to the shops on foot or by bicycle. Or at a time like now, when many are working from home, breaking up the time spent sitting each day with short bursts of exercise can help, as sedentary time is an independent risk factor to health problems,” Parkkari says.
The effects add up over the course of the day, he says, and they can be similar to those achieved with more concentrated workouts. Still, there are a number of possibilities for adding aerobic activity into your day. For those who might have overweight or struggle with musculo-skeletal issues that cause pain, using a stationary bike indoors or swimming is a good way to add exercise without having to carry your own weight. Being more active in this way can also add other benefits, like lower blood pressure and less pain.
Staying warm while out in the cold
For those who’d rather be outdoors throughout the year, walking, skiing, or Nordic walking are all activities that even beginners can partake in, even in winter. According to Parkkari, cold air can dry out airways and may trigger airway constriction. He recommends that covering your airways, perhaps with a face mask or a warm scarf to protect your mouth while breathing, will warm the inhaled air and keep the constriction at bay. Similarly, a protective mouth covering may help during other seasons if your airways are very reactive and pollen allergies might be a trigger.
The important thing about adding exercise into your routine is that you speak to your doctor and continue to maintain your treatment plan. If you have been prescribed an inhaler, Parkkari recommends keeping your device with you while outside doing exercise. You may also use a quick-relief inhaler before exercise to prevent the obstruction of airways, says Parkkari.
However, a frequent need for using your rescue inhaler might also be a sign that your asthma isn’t under control. Because when asthma is well managed there should not be a reason for avoiding any forms of exercising. It is always a good idea to discuss with your GP or other healthcare professional if you are unsure about your medication or have symptoms.
Although studies have shown that asthma can be better controlled through regular exercising, Parkkari also warns that there can be too much of a good thing. “We’re currently undertaking a study on professional skiers and notice a prevalence of asthma increasing the more you train.” For the majority of people, though, – those who are not on a professional athlete’s training regimen of over 600 hours per year – the benefits of exercise are tremendous.
Exercising safely with asthma
- Allow for extra time to warm up when doing vigorous workouts.
- Swimming is an ideal sport, as it is both aerobic and opens your chest muscles.
- Add a bike ride into your exercise plan if osteoarthritis pain in the knees and hips gives you trouble.
- If pollen is a trigger, consider moving indoors on high pollen count days.
- Nordic walking can be a boon to your lungs and your back as you get started, thanks to the poles supporting your neck and shoulders.
Jaakkola, J.J.K., Aalto, S.A.M., Hernberg, S. et al. Regular exercise improves asthma control in adults: A randomized controlled trial. Sci Rep 9, 12088 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-48484-8
S. Dogra, J.L. Kuk, J. Baker, V. Jamnik. Exercise is associated with improved asthma control in adults. European Respiratory Journal Feb 2011, 37 (2) 318-323. https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/37/2/318
By Courtney Tenz
Photo by iStock
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