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Exercise Safely with Asthma

You know exercise is important for your overall health, but what if it makes your asthma symptoms flare up? When you have exercise-induced asthma (EIA), physical activity can bring on coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. It's estimated that 40 to 90% of people with asthma have this problem.

The good news is that having EIA doesn't mean you're stuck on the sidelines. By working with your doctor, you can control EIA symptoms and still stay physically fit.

First Things First

Talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Discuss the physical activities and sports you want to do. Let the doctor know about any exercise-related problems you've had in the past. Then, work together to tailor an exercise plan to your needs.

Be sure to take any asthma medications as prescribed. In some cases, your doctor may recommend using your quick-relief medicine before exercising to help prevent symptoms from starting. To be on the safe side, keep your quick-relief inhaler handy while you work out.

Ready, Set, Go!

Ask your doctor about other steps you can take to keep EIA symptoms in check, and choose asthma-friendly activities, such as:

  • Brisk walking and leisure cycling. These are 2 of the easiest ways to get moving. You can vary how hard you're working during a walk or ride, which may be helpful. In contrast, running and competitive cycling are more likely to set off symptoms.
  • Swimming. The warm, moist air around a pool may help keep symptoms at bay. Swimming also strengthens upper body muscles, including those used for breathing. Be aware that chlorine fumes can trigger asthma symptoms for some people.
  • Baseball, softball and football. Team sports that call for short bursts of activity with rests in between are good choices. They're less likely to cause symptoms than sports with long periods of nonstop activity, such as soccer, basketball, and field hockey.

Asthma Triggers

Finally, watch out for pollen and air pollution. Either can make asthma symptoms worse. Check your local weather report or look at the pollen count and the Air Quality Index. When either is high, consider moving your workout indoors.

For more information on asthma and exercise, visit the American Lung Association.

Sources: American Lung Association, Krames Staywell

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