"The Best Exercise" for Asthma?
Oh, sensationalist headlines of the mainstream media, we meet again.
Okay, this one is pretty mild, admittedly, from Express.co.uk: Asthma - the best exercise to lower your risk of deadly asthma attacks.
And what is the "best exercise" touted in this article? Well, cricket of course.1
Is cricket really the “best exercise” if you have asthma?
Now, I am not disputing that cricket may—like any physical activity or sport—be good for asthma. It absolutely is. Cricket has many of the traits of an asthma-friendly sport—cricket is somewhat similar to baseball in game pacing (learn more: which activities may be easier or harder with asthma). Sprints of running followed by breaks—such as that of hitting a ball and running back-and-forth collecting points tapping the wicket until tagged out with a returned ball, similar to running bases in baseball—are great for those of us with asthma, allowing time to recover between running bursts with a chance to rest on the bench or have other shorter running bursts while in the outfield. Certainly, like many other stop-and-go sports that involve shorter or limited running time, cricket is a great choice to consider if you have asthma.
However, there is—in my opinion—a significant, deep flaw in stating something to be the “best exercise” for people with a specific medical condition. (It’s kind of like the disease-specific version of those wacky “blood type” diets—but I digress.) I am skeptical of anything that says it is the best for everyone. We have enough difficulty getting the general population to get enough exercise, never mind the general population with asthma, which makes exercise even harder and thus more difficult to stick with. From a population health perspective, we really should not be making that harder by telling people they should subscribe to certain boxes—like cricket being "good for asthma”.
EXERCISE is good for asthma
There are some sports or activities that will be easier if you have asthma, and some that will be harder. With a few exceptions, this means that those with asthma can do any activity they want to. Exercise promotes a healthy body weight which makes breathing easier; it strengthens our muscles and makes the body work more efficiently and with less effort, and makes us more mentally resilient to dealing with everyday stresses and challenges. Sure, you could replace the word exercise above with “cricket”, but you could also replace it with hockey, soccer, swimming, hiking, surfing, or dance.
Exercise is good for humans—and, for humans with asthma, while the benefits of exercise on the body may be indirectly beneficial to our asthma—ie. exercise does not CURE asthma, but it can make us able to cope better!—it does not mean exercise is not beneficial for those of us with asthma. Because it totally is.
No exercise is the be-all and end-all for asthma—not cricket (though I’ve heard it pairs well with Pimm’s?), and not anything. The most important thing, is to do what you enjoy and what works for you and your asthma, and stay as active as possible in spite of asthma. And if anybody tells you what the “best exercise” is for asthma, just keep doing what you’re doing and what you like: there’s no miracle magic medicine, and there’s no miracle magic exercise for asthma.
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