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Family Sports & Fitness

Breathe Easy: Asthma and Fitness

Asthma, which makes breathing difficult and causes excessive coughing and wheezing,
affects about 23 million Americans, including almost 7 million children. Common triggers
include cold or dry air, dust, pollen, pollution, cigarette smoke and stress. Even physical
activity can trigger asthma attacks, but doctors don’t suggest those with asthma simply sit
out a fitness routine.

Experts don’t know exactly why physical activity sometimes brings on an asthma attack,
but they suspect that fast breathing through the mouth can irritate the airways. And when
air pollution levels are high outside, or when dust and other triggers are prevalent inside,
the risk of an attack increases.

Getting regular physical activity can improve breathing and lead
to fewer attacks. Swimming, bicycling, golf, inline skating and
weightlifting are considered asthma-friendly activities because they:

• Let you control how hard and fast you breathe
• Let you breathe through your nose at all times
• Don’t dry out your airway
• Mix short, intense activities with long endurance workouts
• Provide a controlled environment (a gym or indoor pool)
• Are usually done with other people around who can help should an attack occur

To make the most of your workout follow these tips – important
reminders for those without asthma too.

• Easy does it. Start every workout with a warm-up and don’t overdo it. Finish every
workout with cool-down. If you’re just starting a routine, begin slowly and build up to
greater endurance and effort.
• Work out with a buddy. It’s more fun plus you’ll have someone “watching your back”
should you need help during a sudden asthma attack.
• Listen to your body. Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. Take it
easy on days when your asthma symptoms are at their worst. Stick to your doctor’s
medicine routine. Avoid the things and situations that trigger your asthma.
• Take a break. Rest when you need it during exercise and drink plenty of water.
• Mix up your routine. Go swimming one day, inline skating another and then take a
long walk the next.
• Speak up. If you have symptoms of an attack coming on, don’t wait until it’s a problem.
Take a break and do what you need to do to feel better

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