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Exercise and Asthma

Asthma is a lung disease that is usually chronic and can be life-threatening, if not managed properly. With proper management, most people can lead a normal, active life.

During an asthma attack, the air passages in the lungs become narrow or blocked by mucus or a muscle spasm. Asthma attacks can be triggered by allergens such as pollen, animal dander, molds, fungi, chemicals in certain foods, and house dust. Irritants such as tobacco smoke, smog, exhaust fumes, household cleansers, and other chemicals may also cause asthma attacks. Even sudden changes in temperature or humidity, strong winds, and strenuous exercise may trigger attacks.

Seventy percent of all asthmatics suffer, to some degree, from exercise-induced asthma. Exercise can often trigger asthma since you’re breathing rapidly through your mouth. This air reaches the bronchial tubes without being warmed and humidified by passing through the nose. This cold and dry air can trigger asthma.

However, most women who have mild to moderate asthma can participate or excel in sports, if their asthma is properly managed.

Suggestions for making workouts more comfortable for asthmatics are:

Swimming is probably the best choice for asthmatics or anyone who suffers bronchospasm, for several reasons:

  • The pool atmosphere is warm and humid with no great seasonal variation.
  • The exercise involved results in toning of upper body muscles, which aids respiration.
  • The horizontal position may help to move mucus from the bottom of the lungs, helping to reduce airway congestion.

A benefit of regular exercise for asthmatics is that it allows them to make a daily assessment of their lung capacity.

When their condition is under control, people with asthma are able to participate in most sports. Those in which activity is intermittent, such as golf, gymnastics and short track-and-field events, are usually less of a problem than those requiring continuous activity, such as football, squash, hockey and long-distance running. Cold weather sports, such as cross-country, skiing and ice hockey, are also more likely to cause bronchospasm. This doesn’t rule out these sports, however. It just means more attention should be paid to proper training and medical treatment.

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