Things That Make Physical Activity With Asthma Easier:
1. BE PROACTIVE
It's important to know that you do have power over your asthma. Your condition doesn't have to control you! There are many steps you can take to control your symptoms and maintain your health. Knowledge is key: it's imperative to know, and avoid, the personal triggers that make you feel worse, as well as understand and follow the health plan your doctor has laid out for you.
2. IMPROVED PHYSICAL CONDITIONING
Because you have asthma you shouldn't exercise, right? Wrong! Though strenuous physical activity may cause asthma flare-ups (especially if the weather is cold or dry, there are a significant amount of pollutants and allergens in the air, or you're experiencing an upper respiratory infection), studies show that exercise may actually decrease the occurrence of asthma attacks. According to a 2005 study
performed by Felix S.F. Ram, M.D., of Massey University in New Zealand, people with asthma who exercise regularly actually increase their ability to draw in oxygen as well as improve their overall cardiopulmonary fitness. But check in with the doc first to find out what precautions you should take, and which activities may be best for you.
3. WARM-UP BEFORE WORKOUTS
Don't jump right into physical activity. Engage in a five to ten minute warm-up before working out or playing sports to prevent chest tightening. Gradually increasing levels of exercise will help the body and lungs prepare for more intense activity.
4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SPORTS
Not all sports are created equally. Certain activities may be more likely to agitate your asthma than others. Sports that require an abundance of stamina, like long distance running, cycling, soccer, basketball, etc., as well as activities that take place outside in the cold air, such as cross-country skiing, hockey, etc., may induce asthma symptoms. This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy and participate in them, though. As long as you follow your doctor's health regimen and remember to take your medication, as well as find a coach who will train you properly, you can excel at any sport you choose!
Here are a few activities that are less likely to worsen asthma symptoms because they are considered less vigorous:
5. PREVENT ASTHMA ATTACKS DURING ACTIVITY
- Shorter track and field events
If you are supposed to take an inhaler before exercise, take it about fifteen to twenty minutes prior to the start of physical activity. Follow this with a slow warm-up of aerobic exercise to prepare and open up the airways. Try your best to breathe through your nose as much as possible during exercise because the nose warms the air and makes it less irritating to your airways. Take a brief rest if needed and afterward, do a cool-down to help slow the change of air temperature in the lungs.
Want to breathe easier? Try yoga. The body poses, pranayama (deep breathing and breath control techniques), and relaxation practices utilized in yoga help calm the body, which promotes smoother breathing, increases lung airflow and capacity, and boosts endurance.
Don't have time, or aren't interested in yoga? That's okay - just breathe instead! A recent study published in the journal Thorax shows that practicing breathing techniques may dramatically decrease the need for asthmatics to use their rescue inhalers. Researchers also found that an integrated sequence of breathing and relaxation exercises known as the Papworth method may reduce asthma symptoms by about a third, as well as improve the overall quality of one's life. According to the study, the series of breathing and relaxation exercises is shown to improve depression, anxiety and respiratory function. Unlike the short, shallow breaths people tend to take when they're feeling stressed, the aim of the Papworth method is to encourage gentle, more relaxed breathing that originates in the abdomen and diaphragm rather than the chest.
There are also some relaxation positions that will facilitate these breathing techniques. For instance, try lying on your side with knees bent, either flat or with your head resting on a pillow. Or, sit on a chair, lean forward, and place your forearms on your knees or your head on a table or desk in front of you. Take slow deep, rhythmic breaths.
But for all the yogis out there, here are some poses and movements to try:
- Opens the chest and improves lung function.
- Drains excess mucus from lungs.
- Elongates the spine and prepares the body for the yoga session.
- Helps with posture and eliminates body stiffness, which can hamper breathing.
Half Spinal Twist
- Strengthens abdominal muscles, spinal nerves, and invigorates the lungs.
- Usually the last pose in a yoga session, Corpse relaxes and revives the body and mind, relieves tension and stress and invites oxygen into the lungs and body.
7. MEDITATION/STRESS RELIEF
When we're in the throes of a stressful situation, our heart rate quickens, our mind races, and our breathing becomes difficult and shallow. Between school, family life, friends, work and planning our futures, it's impossible to avoid stress and anxiety, but by employing some simple meditation techniques, we can learn to relax and return our breathing to a slow, steady and deep pace. Once we're calmer, our airways will relax and our asthma symptoms will decrease. Studies have shown that meditation reduces stress, which, of course, increases our overall wellbeing.
Don't know how to meditate? No problem! Follow these steps to get started:
8. HEALTHY LIFESTYLE AND DIET
- Create a quiet, relaxing environment where you know you won't be disturbed.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Sit on a chair, or cushion, in whatever position is comfortable and natural for you. Don't lie down as you may fall asleep. Make sure you're sitting up straight - this enhances easy breathing.
- Try to keep your eyes open to create a state of relaxed alertness.
- Loosen each muscle in your body starting with your toes and working all the way up to your head.
- Mentally focus on words, and repeat them to help you reach the outcome you desire (for example: "I am relaxed"), or picture yourself in a calm place that soothes and makes you feel happy. You may also recite a mantra, or focus steadfastly on an object that inspires you.
- Pay attention to your breath.
- Ideally, one should meditate for twenty minutes twice daily. In the beginning attention may wander, so start with five to ten minutes of meditation, and work your way up to twenty minutes.
According to a recent study in the journal Chest, those who don't get enough vitamins C and E, flavonoids, beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids from their diets may be hurting their respiratory health. The study, which involved more than 2,000 high school seniors from across the United States, found that teens who don't eat enough fruits, veggies and other nutrient-rich foods are more prone to report problems with breathing, coughing, wheezing and chronic asthma. Researchers speculate
that antioxidants may protect lungs from stress, while omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. Beyond that, a healthy and well-balanced diet promotes a healthy body - and that means fewer colds, allergies, bouts of upper respiratory infections, all which can intensify asthma symptoms.
9. BE PREPARED
Whether you're participating in sports or other forms of physical activity, or you're just lounging around with family and friends, it's important that you always have access to your rescue medication. Even though you should be consistently taking your controller medication, it's crucial to be prepared by always carrying your rescue treatment with you too.
10. STAY AWAY FROM SMOKE!
Smoking is terrible for your health, period. It damages the lungs and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In fact, smokers who die of tobacco-related diseases lose an average of 14 years of life! Okay, so the point's made. Smoking is bad for everyone. But when you have asthma, it's even worse. Smoking enhances wheezing, causes the airways to become swollen and filled with mucus, thus making it harder to breathe. Smoking can also undo the positive effects of your controller medication, as well as force you to use your rescue medication more often - this alone will make it tough to participate in any type of sports! Asthmatic smokers will probably also have to make more frequent trips to the doctor and emergency room.
If you don't smoke, try at all possible costs to avoid secondhand smoke, as it's a known asthma trigger. If family members must smoke, ask them to light up outdoors and not inside the house. Steer clear of restaurants and other establishments where smoking is permitted.
11. ADHERENCE TO DAILY ASTHMA MEDICATION/ROUTINE
You think constantly taking your asthma medication is a burden? You'll have an even larger problem on your hands if you don't adhere to your daily asthma medication regimen! If you want to stay well, play the sports you love, reduce asthma flare-ups and live an overall healthy, high-quality life, then by all means DON'T skip your medication!
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