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How Controlling Exercise-Induced Asthma is Good for Your Health and Wallet

May 1, 2014
Health, Medical Costs
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Some people will do anything to avoid working out, and to their active friends the excuses can seem endless. For some with exercise-induced asthma, however, the barrier feels built right into the condition. Asthma of any type is caused by the narrowing of airways in your lungs (bronchial tubes), and in exercise-induced asthmatics this happens rapidly after beginning cardiovascular workouts.

Not all asthmatics have the exercise-induced variety, and not all those with exercise-induced asthma have chronic asthma with symptoms that exist outside of physical exertion. What’s more, symptoms specific to exercise-induced asthma often mimic poor conditioning, so not everyone who experiences symptoms during workouts actually has a type of asthma. It’s no surprise, then, that admitting this diagnosis is often met with skeptical expressions and comments.

The good news is that, like most people, those with exercise-induced asthma can still enjoy exercise as a normal part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, there are professional athletes and Olympians with the very same condition who prove that asthma is no excuse not to lace up your gym shoes. Here are the health and financial reasons you shouldn’t skip working out if you have exercise-induced asthma, plus a few quick tips to get it under control.


Exercise Helps Prevent Asthma Complications

Yes, exercise is your big problem, so how can more of it make your asthma better? There are a couple of ways, and although more research is needed, studies have shown that cardio exercise does improve asthma symptoms and lung function. One hypothesis is that aerobic exercise helps stretch the lungs and bronchial tubes, which may decrease resistance to breathing over time.

Another hypothesis centers on stress, a known trigger for asthma. Stress comes in many forms, and not all of it is bad. “Good” stress can come from physical exertion, reducing the effect that day-to-day “bad” stress has on your body. In fact, study after study has shown that people who get aerobic exercise handle stressful situations better than those who do not. For asthmatics, this may mean fewer attacks and less rescue medication usage, which means less money spent on asthma drugs.


Exercise Helps Prevent Obesity and Other Diseases

People who work out regularly tend to weigh less than those who don’t. While that nugget probably didn’t shock you out of your seat, you might be wondering just what that has to do with your asthma. For starters, obesity has been known to affect general lung function for decades. In studies, obese asthmatics have poorer lung function than their healthy-weight counterparts, and this is especially true for asthmatic women. Take heed, ladies: Obese women are much more susceptible to lowered lung function than obese men. Research suggests this is because female hormones play a big part, and heavier women produce more hormones than healthy-weight women.

The good news here is that the negative effects of obesity on asthma are greatly reduced with weight loss. Of course, exercise is extremely helpful in weight loss, so you shouldn’t pass it up if you’re asthmatic and overweight. Not only will you be spared the asthma symptoms, but the medical bills as well: Research shows that obese people pay 40 percent more in health care costs than healthy-weight individuals.

Along with battling obesity, people who move more are less likely to be disabled after 60 or develop chronic illnesses like diabetes. Coupled with asthma, other illnesses could really make the medical bills pile up. Not only will doctors’ copays pile up each year, but so will prescription costs each month.


Improving Quality of Life

The effects of gaining control of your exercise-induced asthma and getting regular exercise will spread to all corners of your life, no doubt. There’s a lot to be said for how much better you’ll feel if you’re not overweight and are less stressed, but no need to cover that again. Overall quality of life includes a lot more than just the widely publicized Things Everyone Should Do.

How about not being worried about breathing if you want to go on a hike with friends? What about having the freedom to go out for a jog whenever the mood strikes? How does a night out dancing without coughing and wheezing sound? Not having to use your rescue inhaler as often? Anything that is physically feasible, symbolizes freedom and maximizes your happiness improves your quality of life. How would controlling your asthma improve yours?


Quick Tips for Management

As it happens, asthmatics can participate in practically any activity once conditioned and in control of their asthma. Exercise-induced asthma symptoms generally begin five to 20 minutes after beginning aerobic activity. The best way to prevent these symptoms is to take your prescribed short-acting bronchodilator 20 to 30 minutes before warming up. It also helps to actually warm up, so your body can properly humidify the air you breathe before it enters your lungs.

If you’re just starting to exercise with asthma and aren’t sure where to start, swimming is one of the best activities. This is because it involves breathing warm, moist air that won’t irritate your lungs. Activities that involve short bursts of activity are also good, so your lungs can recover periodically. For cold-weather activities, make sure to cover up your mouth with a scarf so the air is partially warmed before it enters your mouth. If you need more help controlling your exercise-induced asthma, ask your doctor about other treatment options.


Asthma Resources


This article was originally published on U.S. News Eat + Run blog.
Man exercising photo courtesy of Shutterstock.