Come on asthmatics, it's time to excercise!
If you have asthma it is paramount that you exercise, because the benefits of exercise coupled with a healthy diet not only help you lose weight, but it can help you better manage your asthma.
Even if it’s just a simple walk, exercise has many benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic:
- Makes your heart and lungs stronger.
- Increases your energy level.
- Increases your stamina and decreases fatigue
- helps you sleep better and improve your concentration
- helps you combat chronic disease
- Improves your mood, confidence and self esteem
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves your immune system, which improves your ability to stave off nasty viruses and the flu.
Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Do you have extra fat around your waist? Do you have a pot belly? Did you get winded as you walked back from the mirror to your computer to read this? Be honest. Your asthma may cause you problems, but being out of shape may be compounding the problem.
Sure, if your asthma is out of control, or if you have a cold, you should lay low. But once you have your asthma under control, which should be easy to do once you see your doctor and get yourself on a good asthma management plan, you should be ready to exercise.
If you have exercise-induced asthma, then you can premedicate as directed by your physician. Come one No excuses!
When I was 14 my asthma was so bad I had no choice but not to exercise. But after I was shipped to an asthma hospital in Denver, as soon as they had my asthma even somewhat controlled they had me in the gym doing aerobics.
Even back then, in 1985, it was well known the advantages of exercise as a tool to control asthma. Even Teddy Roosevelt, back in the 1860s when there were no bronchodilators to control asthma, was encouraged by his doctor to exercise to improve his body size and improve his lung function. Hey, this isn’t new wisdom.
Even the best of us have our lapses, though. And, like many of you, life sometimes takes over and exercise doesn’t happen. So, even though I learned the benefits of exercise at a young age, I still – like many of you – had to learn the hard way.
As a kid I was able to eat whatever I wanted and never gain wait. As I grew older, and kept eating the same, all this eating eventually caught up with me (sound familiar?). By the time I was 28 I was winded with minimal exertion and I was 40 pounds over weight. Worst of all, my asthma was getting worse.
I just got a new job as an RT near my hometown. I packed my clothing, hauled dusty boxes to my new home, and caught a cold. My chronic asthmatic lungs, incapable of handling all this at once, started shutting down.
A few days later, a sweet old lady COPD patient of mine said to me while she was puffing on her breathing treatment: “You look worse than I feel.”
“Oh, I’m fine,” I huffed. I was lying. I was not fine. I was not just winded I was tight. Between patients that day I kept puffing on my rescue inhaler.
When I finished working that day I went to the ER. I was so bad I was admitted to a room right next to the same COPD patient who told me I looked bad just a few hours earlier. I was so bad I needed a breathing treatment every hour for three days.
Many of my co-workers visited me with sympathy. But then Sahara came into my room. Sahara so happened to be an RT who took care of me when I was a kid, so she knew me well.
She said, “You did this to yourself, Rick.”
“What?” I said.
“You heard me. You did this to yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror some day, Rick. You are way overweight. You can’t hope to manage your asthma if you are that overweight. And you know better. You’ve had this disease your whole life.”
She continued, “Every time I see you you are eating a Big Mac or a Whopper. You don’t eat right, and I’m certain you don’t exercise. You need to take care of yourself or you’re going to end up back in here again.”
My face must have been beat red as she beamed at me with intense eyes. I said nothing. I couldn’t breath. I could hear myself wheeze. I just wanted her to go.
I told my friends what she did, and they all agreed that she was a terrible person to say all those things. Later, I was discharged from the hospital and my good friend Sammy, who was overweight too and a fellow asthmatic, came to my home and said, “I’ve been going to the health center for about a month and I’ve never felt better.”
“I’m not going there,” I said. “I can’t do that kind of working out. Besides, I hate working out. Working out is for chumps.”
“Just come one time and see if you like it. They have a trainer who will work with you.”
I reluctantly went. I hated it. I hated lifting weights, and I hated the aerobics. I felt miserable the next day. I was sore.
“I’m not ever doing that again,” I chanted.
Lo and behold, I did keep going, and within a month I had so much energy I started going to the health center twice a day. I had lost 10 pounds, and, best of all, I no longer felt winded with minimal exertion.
A few months later not only was I working out, I was jogging. That’s right. Never in my life had I been able to jog without it bothering my asthma.
So I’m living proof that asthma should never stop you from exercising. Also, I’m proof that excercise can make your asthma better. So long as you are a gallant asthmatic, so long as you premedicate yourself if needed, you should be able to do it.
My wife teases me when she says, “You don’t jog, you wog.”
Wog defined: a very awkward looking jog.
Okay, so make fun of me if you wish. The point is that I get outside and I exercise. I do it because it is a simple fact that exercising is good all the way around. Coupled with a good asthma management plan, exercise has helped me avoid the ER for asthma for ten years now.
So you’ve decided to make getting your lungs in shape your New Years Resolution. Here are some tips from the American Lung Association:
- Never exercise if you are having breathing difficulties before starting.
- When it’s cold exercise indoors, as cold air can trigger asthma.
- Exercise in places that have low quantities of asthma triggers
- Premedicate yourself as directed by your physician.
- Pace yourself.
- Warm up your body and muscles
- Cool down for 10 minutes when you finish.
If you have a busy schedule and don’t have time: MAKE THE TIME. Trust me, a fellow asthmatic: the more you work out, the more time you’ll find to do all the things you want to do in a day as your energy level increases.
Come on asthmatics! There is no better time than right now to strengthen your lungs, your heart and your body. It’s time to exercise.
John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).