If you have asthma, you should be exercising on a regular basis. The evidence of the benefits of exercising is abounding, and even shows that regular exercise can help you obtain and maintain good asthma control. If you already do it, great! If you don’t, here’s nine reasons to begin your exercise program today, __especially if you have asthma._his is because exercise…** 1. Makes your heart and lungs stronger**. Exercising builds up muscle strength. Your heart is a muscle, so when you exercise, you are, in essence, making it a stronger pump. The Mayo Clinic explains that this makes it easier for it to pump blood through your lungs and body, making you feel less winded. This also increases oxygen and nutrients to the various tissues of your body to help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.
2. Boosts your energy. Even though you may feel fatigue today, forcing yourself to exercise everyday should give you more energy in the long term. One recent study performed at the University of Georgia showed that low-intensity exercise boosted energy by 20 percent and reduced fatigue by 60 percent. The theory is that regular exercise makes your cardiovascular system more efficient at pumping nutrients and oxygen to the various tissues of your body, in turn giving you more energy every day.
3. Boosts your immune system. Keep in mind here that respiratory viral infections (or your common colds) are the most common cause of asthma attacks. Having a strong immune response is perhaps the best way of fending off nasty viruses, and making colds less severe when you do get them.
4. Helps you lose weight. Exercising alone probably will not cause you to lose weight. However, when coupled with a healthy diet, exercising can help you lose weight. For one thing, it causes you to burn calories. Fitness expert John Hussman explains that a pound of pure muscle burns up to 50 calories a day, so if you gain ten pounds of muscle that’s an extra 500 calories your body would be burning even when you’re just sitting around. He said,** “** The more lean muscle you have, the easier it is to burn fat.” So exercising does help you lose weight, and losing weight helps you gain better asthma control.
5. Curb obesity and therefore asthma. Studies actually link obesity with asthma. One theory is that adipose tissue (fat tissue) releases a hormone called leptin, which in turn causes inflammation in asthmatic lungs. While all asthmatics have leptin, it’s levels are higher in obese asthmatics. So losing weight, and maintaining a healthy weight, should help you obtain better asthma control.
6. High fat foods trigger asthma. When eating healthy you should be avoiding high fat foods, and this alone may improve your asthma. One theory suggests that asthmatic immune systems recognize saturated fat as an enemy, and sets off a series of chemical reactions to rid it from the body. Inflammatory markers released during the process causes asthma and asthma symptoms. This basically means that saturated fat is an asthma trigger that should be avoided to obtain better asthma control.
7. Makes you healthier overall. Exercise increases the production of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is the good cholesterol. This keeps your blood flowing smoothly and protects against high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, some cancers, arthritis, and falls. When you consider that a recent study found a link between heart disease and asthma, this benefit is all the more impressive.
8. Makes you happier. It is a proven fact that asthma is often linked with anxiety and depression even when your asthma is well controlled. Exercise stimulates the brain to release a chemical called endorphins. They act like analgesics such as morphine to diminish the perception of pain, causing a sedative effect, reducing stress, warding off anxiety, warding off depression, boosting self esteem, and improving sleep. This is why people sense a feeling of euphoria after running.
9. Increases your memory. It stimulates the brain to release a chemical brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that rewrites memory circuits so your memory becomes better. So if you are a student, or simply trying to figure out how all these new complex asthma medicines work, this is a HUGE incentive to exercise. In fact, some experts recommend children immediately exercise when they get home from school, and then sit down to do their homework. Supposedly this facilitates learning.
Start your exercise program today. Look, Hippocrates recommended a healthy diet and exercise to maintain good health as long ago as 400 B.C. Lacking better remedies, this was the advice of many physicians over the years to help asthmatics, including a young Teddy Roosevelt. Today we have many studies that have confirmed these benefits, even explaining why. Again, if you already exercise, wonderful! If you don’t, there’s no better time than right now to get active, get fit, and breathe better.
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A Registered Respiratory Therapist and asthmatic