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Catching Your Breath

Have asthma? Exercise can help. You’ve just to do it right.

People with asthma may fear an asthma attack and skip exercise, but they’re missing out on a big part of asthma management. As many as 9 out of 10 people with asthma have exercise-induced asthma, which results in exercise making asthma symptoms worse. However, letting this stop you from getting exercise will only make your overall health suffer.

Besides being good for your heart, lungs, muscles, bones, and overall health, exercise is actually good for asthma control. Without it, those who live with asthma have a harder time getting their asthma symptoms under control. The key is to become more active gradually with an asthma plan in mind.
Keep reading to learn how to exercise safely with asthma.

Work With Your Doctor

Once your asthma is under control through the regular use of prescribed mediations, you should be able to exercise without trouble. If you’re new to exercise, get your doctor’s clearance to begin a new routine. Your doctor may recommend using a short-acting bronchodilator inhaler to prep your lungs 15 to 20 minutes before exercising. As always, keep your rescue inhaler nearby for worsening symptoms.

Start Slow

While you may want to jump in full-force from the start, it’s best to let your lungs get used to exercise. When it’s been weeks or months since you’ve set foot in the gym, start out slow. Always begin your workout with a warm-up to slowly increase your breathing and end with a cool-down. As the days go by, gradually work up to longer, more intense workouts. When you’re able, breathe through your nose to help warm and moisten the air before it reaches your lungs.

Avoid Triggers

You know your asthma triggers. Maybe it’s hot air, cold air, dry air, respiratory infections, pollution, or allergens. Plan to exercise indoors on the days you know the outside air is bad for your condition. This could be during extremely cold or hot days or during the spring allergy season. When you are exercising in cold temperatures, keep a scarf over your nose and mouth. Skip your workout when you’ve got a cold.

Heed the Warning Signs

Any time you’re exercising and feel asthma symptoms coming on, it’s time to stop and rest. Don’t try to push through or you may suffer an asthma attack. Slow your breathing and relax somewhere warm. If necessary, use your rescue inhaler as directed, and if symptoms don’t improve, call for emergency medical attention.

Best Exercises

Some workouts are recommended for people with asthma and some aren’t. Because it’s done while breathing warm, moist air, swimming is a great way for folks with asthma to get exercise, burn calories, and strengthen muscle. Activities such as gymnastics, yoga, volleyball, baseball, tennis, and golf are typically safe, because they require short bursts of exertion. Walking, cycling, aerobics, hiking, and jogging are also generally well tolerated.
Certain workouts, however, are more likely to cause asthma symptoms. High-intensity endurance exercises such as long-distance running, football, soccer, and basketball may be difficult for people with asthma, as can activities done outdoors in cold weather like ice-skating, skiing, or ice hockey.

Measure Peak Flow

As you exercise, it may be difficult to know if you’re experiencing normal breathlessness from exertion or shortness of breath due to asthma. One way to tell the difference is by using a peak flow meter. This simple device measures how well air is able to move in and out of your lungs. When at rest and your asthma is controlled, measure your peak flow several times throughout the day for a baseline. Then measure during exercise to determine if your airways are tightening. A low reading means it’s time to rest and use your rescue inhaler.

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