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10 steps to easier exercising with asthma

Asthma may make exercise extra challenging, but definitely not impossible. Many people with asthma avoid exercise because they fear an exercise-induced asthma attack. But you don't have to miss out on good health and good times. In the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, 120 of the U.S. athletes had asthma. And those athletes won 57 Olympic medals. Exercise-induced asthma is extremely common, but, fortunately, it can be prevented and controlled. Follow these suggestions, and you'll be able to enjoy a fun, daily exercise program.

Choose an asthma-friendly exercise. Some activities are going to be easier on your lungs than others. Most experts believe exercise-induced asthma occurs when your lungs lose heat and water. There are three reasons for this: long periods of hard breathing, breathing in allergens and breathing in cold air.

Therefore, sports such as running and bicycling, especially during the winter, will increase your chances of an exercise-induced attack. Long-lasting endurance sports, such as baseball and downhill skiing, are less likely to trigger asthma than a high-intensity sport like basketball or soccer.

Water sports cause the least problems because the moist, warm air prevents the airways from cooling. Plus, walking and weight training rarely trigger asthma.

The key to maintaining an exercise program is to choose an activity you enjoy. Experiment with different sports until you find your niche.

Choose the proper environment. Try to exercise in warm, humid, unpolluted environments.

On cold days, wear a face mask or scarf over your nose and mouth. This will make the air you breathe warmer and more humid. Foam nylon masks will help warm the air before it enters your lungs.

Use an inhaler five minutes to an hour before vigorous exercise. Always carry your inhaler in case you need it during exercise as well.

Always warm up thoroughly before starting vigorous exercise. Follow up with a long cool down after exercise. This is an excellent way to gradually increase your physical strength and lung capacity without triggering an asthma attack.

Follow a pre-exercise routine. Some athletes with asthma follow this routine: They use their inhaler, do five to 10 minutes of vigorous exercise, then completely cool down. Then they start playing their sport. This routine gives them a two-hour period during which they can exercise without suffering asthma symptoms.

Avoid eating certain foods up to two hours before exercise. Shrimp, celery, peanuts, egg whites, almonds and bananas are some of the foods that can trigger exercise-induced attacks. Eating these foods before exercise can actually cause breathlessness, a drop in blood pressure and extreme weakness.

Breathe through your nose. This will warm and moisten the air in your nasal passages. Asthma and Exercise by Nancy Hogstead and Gerald Couzens and The Breath Approach to Whole Life Fitness by Ian Jackson outline useful breathing techniques that will reduce your chances of asthma during exercise.

Keep a positive attitude and believe in yourself. Don't give up exercise altogether if you have a bad experience. One negative experience does not even compare to all of the positive benefits of exercise.

Finally, don't overdo it! Too much exercise isn't healthy for anyone. Fatigue, anemia, and the rapid deterioration of muscles are just a few of the adverse effects of too much exercise.

Asthma does not have to slow you down. A consistent exercise program will actually improve your asthma. You can still play your favorite sports, have fun, and compete with the best of them!


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