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Asthma and Exercise: One Breath Closer
There are many adults and children who would like to lead a more physically active life, unfortunately asthma can be quite debilitating at times. I have lived my whole life with asthma and as a child the usual childhood games such as biking, jumping rope, roller skating etc. were very rare for me. I lived a sedentary life for over half of my life, until weight became an issue. Since exercise is such an important part of weight loss and a balanced life, the question remains, how can one become physically active, while keeping asthma under control?
Asthma, simply put, is a chronic lung disorder, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Most people with asthma think that exercising is just not an option for them and that it does more harm than good. Now bodybuilding, jumping rope, hiking, kick boxing and more have been a part of my life for over eight years. Exercising regularly slowly built up my stamina and strengthened my heart and lungs. However, I am never too far from my inhaler. The severity of asthma differs from person to person, so you should always consult your doctor and get a thorough evaluation before starting any type of exercise program.
Every Breath You Take
Proper breathing is crucial for someone with asthma. There are many breathing techniques that will improve your heart and lungs. Below are two simple breathing exercises you can do almost anywhere.
Deep breathing. While standing or lying down, inhale as much oxygen as possible, then gradually exhale. You can do it anywhere, while you train, cook or drive. It’s that simple !
abdominal breathing. Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Put one hand on your chest and another on your abdomen. Inhale deeply and slowly and feel the pull in your midsection. Ideally, as you do this, the hand on your stomach will rise higher than the one on your chest. Now exhale only through your mouth. Then inhale through your nose and hold it for almost 7 seconds. Exhale until you have finished counting to 8. As you near the end, squeeze your abdominal muscles to make sure there is no residual air. This is one of the easiest exercises to increase lung capacity.
*Slowly build your cardiovascular system and start with low-intensity aerobic exercise.
– Take short brisk walks around your neighborhood and increase your pace and distance every 4-6 weeks. Cold air can trigger an asthma attack, so watch the weather and bring your inhaler. If the outdoors aren’t for you, take advantage of a treadmill and apply the same rules as if you were walking outside.
– Go swimming, it improves your cardiovascular system, helps you lose weight and sculpts upper and lower body muscles.
– Take a yoga or Pilates class to strengthen, tighten your core and tone your whole body. This will take away some of your stress, and over time you will adopt a new breathing pattern. You will begin to use your abdominal muscles and the lower part of your diaphragm, while relaxing your pectoral muscles.
– Don’t give up on strength training. You can increase muscle mass, have a more defined body, while sweating, all without feeling a too fast heart rate. Children can also start a strength training program, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Children as young as 7 or 8 years old are old enough to learn the correct way to do exercises such as; a sit-up and push-up, under the strict guidance of a certified and trained professional.
Common foods that are known to trigger an asthma attack and can interfere with exercise
- Dairy products – eggs, soy, ice cream
- Wine and Beer
- Spicy foods
Certain weather conditions that can interfere with your breathing and cause an attack
- Cold weather and dry temperatures
- Humid weather
- Hot and humid conditions
- Cold and windy weather
If you have asthma and are looking to become an advanced workout junkie or even a pro athlete, consider this: Jackie Joyner – The Kersee athletics star was diagnosed with asthma as a freshman at UCLA. Joyner-Kersee became a four-time Olympian and three-time gold medalist. Jerome Bettis aka “The Bus”, a retired running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 15. Bettis played 13 seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl in the process.
Important ! Always stay under the close supervision of a physician. Seek the expertise and training help of someone who has worked with asthmatics. Asthmatics can enjoy a full and active life like everyone else. The key is to understand the severity of your asthma. Start slow and work your way up to the success you want to achieve.
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