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The benefits of exercise when you have asthma

Paoli Hospital September 19, 2019 Sports and Fitness

Being physically active is one of the keys to good health. But for people with asthma, exercise may set off symptoms such as breathlessness and wheezing—a condition called exercise-induced asthma (EIA).

“When EIA goes unchecked, people often stop exercising. This helps explain why adults with asthma are less fit, on average, than those without asthma,” explains Shailen R. Shah, MD, an allergist and immunologist at Paoli Hospital, part of Main Line Health.

Yet things don’t have to turn out that way. When EIA is well-controlled, regular exercise is possible. And it may actually improve asthma control.

For instance, exercise helps you manage weight. In people with asthma who are obese, asthma symptoms tend to be harder to control and lung function is often worse. Physical activity may also reduce asthma symptoms. In one study, walking on a treadmill twice a week for three months reduced airway overreaction and inflammation in adults with asthma.

Your doctor can help you plan a workout routine. EIA can be treated with medication before exercise. These strategies may also help reduce symptoms:

  • Choose asthma-friendly activities. Try swimming, walking or cycling. Sports such as baseball and football, which require short bursts of energy alternating with rest periods, are also good choices. “In contrast, activities that require nonstop, strenuous activity—such as running, soccer and basketball—are more likely to trigger asthma symptoms,” says Dr. Shah.
  • Warm up before exercise and cool down afterward. Try stretching or walking.
  • Know when to move indoors. Pollen and air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse. If cold air is a trigger, consider wearing a scarf or cold-air mask over your nose and mouth until your airways warm up.

Take control of your asthma

Your doctor will work with you to create an asthma action plan that includes what signs to look out for, how to take your medications and when to take your medicines. You may have different medications for asthma, including relievers that stop asthma symptoms fast and controllers that help prevent asthma attacks.

By following your action plan, avoiding triggers and taking your medicines regularly, you can keep your asthma under control. Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.