Exercising with Asthma

Stairs in Woods

Please note that my asthma is very mild. Please clear it with your doctor before changing up your exercise routine.

The following tips have helped me manage my asthma and exercise without straining my breathing too much – even when it seemed like an uphill battle.

1. Use medication if needed. Although I don’t need meds every day, I take them before working out – especially cardio.

2. Consciously breathe slowly and deeply. I have a bad habit of being a shallow breather, not good at the best of times.

3. Remember those baby steps I talked about in an earlier post? Pushing yourself just a little harder can help build lung capacity and endurance. Walk one more block. Climb one more flight of stairs. Jog a block and then walk two.

4. While I did mention jogging in Tip #3, I quickly get out of breath if I run – even slowly. However, I do walk quickly according to both my hubby and our daughter. As far as burning calories goes, it is about the distance traveled. Leave yourself a little extra time and walk rather than run if necessary.

5. While there has been a lot of talk these days about the benefits of interval training, high intensity bursts interspersed with lower intensity ones, this may not be the way to go if you’re asthmatic. I know it wouldn’t work for me.

6. Similar to the recommendation above, there are lots of options for those with breathing problems. Slow your gait when walking up an incline. Stick to the well-worn path when hiking. Toss a ball back and forth rather than chasing a Frisbee. (At least you’d have to run a lot if I was throwing the Frisbee to you, not one of my strong suits for sure.)

7. Identify signs of strained breathing. This may sound strange to those without respiratory issues – and even some who have breathing problems. Traditional shortness of breath isn’t always the first clue that things aren’t as they should be. Tightness across my back can mean I did a good upper body workout the previous day or that my breathing is strained. My neck may tighten and I may unintentionally keep my shoulders elevated as if I’m shrugging continuously. Neck stretches, rolling my shoulders up, back, and down, paying attention to good posture, plus intentionally taking deep breaths can alleviate these issues. (These recommendations are more about dealing with the unpleasant side effects of respiratory problems rather than improving the issue itself.)

8. It may seem self-evident, but carrying extra weight strains both the heart and lungs (as well as other organs). Seek to achieve a healthy body fat percentage. (There is an interesting article on sparkpeople you may want to read about ways to measure body fat)

9. Consider changing your diet. There are several foods that have been linked to respiratory problems. Here are some basics from the Mayo Clinic.

10. Listen to your body. Ignoring respiratory problems isn’t the way to go, but you can change things up in a way that will have long term benefits and still allow you to remain active.

This post first appeared yesterday on Kimberley Payne’s blog.

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