Running with Asthma: How to Thrive on Exercise

Quincy AdamAsthma Exercise, Asthma Lifestyle, Exercise

If you have asthma, you may already know that exercise is a double-edged sword. Regular exercise may alleviate some asthma symptoms in the long term by building up the strength of your lung muscles.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find an exercise regimen that doesn’t make your symptoms worse at the onset. The risks are even higher if you have exercise-induced asthma, which can cause an attack just minutes into your workout.

But having asthma doesn’t mean you can’t live a healthy life. Here are some tips on running with asthma. It goes without saying that you should always consult with your physician before starting any exercise program!

Build Your Strength Slowly and Steadily

Start slowly and work your way up to higher cardio levels. You can begin with a walking regimen or run only a few minutes at a time. Be willing to admit your limits to yourself, and when you’re ready to push them, do it in small increments. It’s a gradual process that builds your strength over the long term.

Be Aware and Prepare

Always warm up first and be aware of the condition of your lungs. If other issues are causing your airways to constrict, go easy on yourself so you don’t end up with a full-blown attack.

Remember that cold air, extreme humidity, smoke and the presence of your allergens can worsen symptoms and force you to cut a running routine short. Always keep your medicine and a rescue inhaler (if prescribed) on hand. If air conditions don’t permit an outdoor run, find a way to exercise indoors, such as on a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical machine.

Also, be aware of what an imminent attack feels like and how far you can go before reaching the tipping point when running with asthma. Don’t push yourself until you collapse and turn a fitness routine into an emergency. “Feeling the burn” is natural, but you don’t want your airways to become inflamed. And if you have an attack, you will be more prone to them in the future.

Use Intervals that Work for You

When running with asthma, stagger running with walking to improve your resiliency and increase your distance. There’s no “perfect” interval set; base it on how your lungs feel and how long you plan to run. You might spend ten minutes running and ten minutes walking, or ten and five, or whichever ratio you find suits you. When you walk, don’t speed-walk. Take a natural walking pace.

Keep Fit with Friends

Social support is helpful for running with asthma. Tell your friends and family about your goals and milestones to help hold yourself accountable. Let a friend encourage you if you’re slacking off. And don’t be afraid to boast about your accomplishments because this can boost your confidence and provide positive reinforcement.

If you’re running with other people, let them know about your asthma ahead of time. Tell them what symptoms to look out for and how to help you if you have an attack. In most cases, emergency treatment isn’t necessary for an asthma attack, but people without asthma don’t know. They might panic instead of getting you what you need. Along with your medicine, bring a medical bracelet or set of instructions on a small card to tell people what to do. This information enables them to assist you even if you can’t speak.

It’s also a good idea to let someone know when and where you’re running. That way if you’re not back by a certain time and they can’t reach you, they’ll know to search for you and call for help.