Asthma and Exercise: A Balancing Act
Last updated: September 2020
Trying to exercise as an asthma patient is challenging. Sometimes, in addition to a balancing act, it feels like I need to perform a bit of magic just to climb a flight of stairs.
What the experts say
The guidance I receive from all of my health care providers is simple; keep moving. That advice from my doctors emphasizes the importance of staying fit and active as an asthma patient. The exercise component is an important tool in maintaining our respiratory health.
The American Lung Association states that: “Daily exercise helps to improve our lungs capacity, in other words, the maximum amount of oxygen our body can use.”1 However, this concept of exercise to stay healthy often seems out of reach when considering the limitations that dealing with asthma can create. For instance, this time of year I prefer to get my exercise outdoors.
Asthma exercise routine and air quality
A few days ago I went for a walk. It was a short walk. The weather was oppressively humid and very warm which are not ideal conditions for outdoor activity. However, the air quality that day was is in the range that is suitable for me to be outdoors getting some exercise.
Then enters balance. The air quality is important, the weather conditions are as well, but I know I do not respond well when the air quality is less than optimal. Wheezing, a raspy voice, coughing fits, and chest tightness can stay with me for days. If the weather isn't ideal, I will have symptoms as well which include some that I have listed, along with overwhelming exhaustion. I recover faster, sometimes.
We all know that nothing is certain or consistent when dealing with asthma. Again, balance is key. Weighing the pros of getting exercise with the cons of the possible negative impacts is also part of an asthmatic’s daily routine.
Tools to maintain an exercise routine with asthma
I have said a few times in other posts that I love the outdoors. I have loved it since I was a little girl, many moons ago. It is where I thrive. I find a way to be outdoors every season. During the warmer weather, as I mentioned, I get the majority of my exercise outdoors. On the days I can't be outside because conditions are unsuitable, I have an indoor asthma exercise routine that I try to stick to.
I am not a gym person, never have been. When I workout indoors with weights it is usually with friends. However, since we have to work inside right now, I decided that in order to keep up the discipline of that aspect of my asthma exercise routine, I needed motivation.
Since I was no longer able to work out with my friends I signed up for classes through an app. I am now taking a variety of classes that include strength training, yoga, stretching, and even breathing meditations all in the comfort of my own home. The best part is that there are outdoor walking classes as well, which is perfect for me. So now when I pop in my earbuds during a good outdoor exercise day, instead of walking along to a podcast or music, I am listening to an instructor who is pushing me to make the most out of my walk. I also play pickleball and ride my bike. All of these tools offer just enough activity and a considerable breathing workout.
As an asthma sufferer, I try to make the most out of my everyday chores and activities too. For example, I park my car a bit further from my destination. I consider walking up a flight of steps a few extra times per day as a bit of a workout since inclines are one of my biggest challenges. Throw in a bag or two of groceries (I live on the second floor of a condo) and the exercise intensifies.
I think we have to give ourselves credit, even for these tasks. For some, they are simple and easy to accomplish, but for me, they are challenges that ultimately help increase my breathing capacity.
Keeping my toolbox full
This toolbox of tricks and deciding what is best for me each day usually works well because I balance and tailor my exercise to the needs and moods of my asthma. Keeping this toolbox full of options helps me feel that asthma doesn’t have the last word.
Naturally, there are days that I can’t accomplish even the simplest exercise. We all have those days. Asthma can rear its bothersome, ugly head, and make the simplest tasks seem overwhelming and even impossible. So having my doctors tell me to keep moving is great advice; being able to balance that advice while listening to my body and my breathing each day requires some thought and planning.
What does your asthma exercise routine look like? Share in the comments below!
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