Living and keeping fit whilst managing asthma can be very challenging, depending on the stage of asthma you may have and your lung function measurement. Like with most respiratory conditions, every day can be a struggle because it directly affects lung function.
We sat down with Dylan to hear his insights into some of the challenges he faces with exercising with asthma. Dylan’s insights offer a unique perspective on not letting asthma take over your long-term fitness goals.
According to Asthma + Lung UK and my GP, I have difficult asthma. This means I have symptoms more than three times a week, use my reliever inhaler three or more times in a week, and wake up at night because of asthma symptoms one or more times a week.
Exercise helps improve the amount of oxygen the lungs can carry at any given time (known as lung capacity). As your heart rate increases with exercise, it also helps increase blood flow to the lungs. Increased oxygen and blood flow can improve your overall health. Regular physical activity benefits your lungs by strengthening the muscles around them and throughout your body. This increased strength enables your muscles to function with less oxygen, resulting in more efficient breathing during movement.
On a personal level, since taking my fitness levels seriously, I have noticed a massive difference in my breathing and overall cardio performance. At first, I would have to take my salbutamol inhaler before and during workouts - a lot more than my recommended dose. Now that my fitness levels have improved, I have found that I don’t use my inhaler as much.
Personally, it’s endurance. When I put a larger focus on my fitness levels my biggest struggle was spending time on my cardio. Whether it was the treadmill, cycling or the rowing machine, I had a hard time staying on these machines for long. At this point, it’s very “make or break” as in the past I’ve tried to put focus on my fitness but gave up quickly since it can be such a knock to your confidence.
Other asthma sufferers with more severe symptoms might have to avoid certain high-intensity exercises, for example HIIT training or running. In this case, the suggestion is to identify and engage in activities that are less likely to provoke asthma attacks, such as swimming or walking, while still providing an adequate workout.
When starting to exercise with a lung condition it’s good to take little steps at first before rushing into the gym. This could mean doing something as simple as getting off the bus a stop early or putting that bit more effort in when doing your housework. At first, I started to pay more attention to my fitness tracker on my smartphone, which helped me set a goal for how many steps I take daily. Even if it’s 1,000 more steps a day it can help improve your fitness.
Traditionally, swimming has been recommended for most people with lung conditions as the warm and steamy conditions are less offensive. But there are considerations to take into account if you do decide to use swimming as your primary fitness method.
During exercise, the body's demand for oxygen increases, and the breathing rate and depth also intensify. This heightened respiratory activity can potentially trigger symptoms in individuals with underlying respiratory conditions.
These inhalers contain medications such as salbutamol or terbutaline, which work by relaxing and opening the airways, allowing for improved airflow and alleviating symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath.
By using an inhaler before exercise, individuals can prevent or reduce the likelihood of experiencing exercise-induced respiratory symptoms. It helps to optimise lung function, ensuring that the individual can participate in physical activities without undue discomfort or risk of complications.
Like Dylan said, motivation is key, but don't go rushing into fitness goals you aren't ready for. Make sure to take everything bit by bit and you'll feel a difference as the months go on. Also, make sure to start every exercise with a warm-up. You can find online warm-up exercises to suit you and work through step-by-step.
There’s no better time to become part of the Phlo community. Take control of your medication management and join the 1,000s of patients we’ve helped safely manage their medication.