It is estimated that 11% of Australians have Asthma, including 1 in 7 primary school children and 1 in 9 adults and is one of the most common chronic conditions in Australia.

(Asthma Australia, 2021)

 

Today, Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymbleBalmainNeutral Bay and Coburg, Melbourne, discuss the effects of and how exercise can help people living with asthma.

 

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways associated with airway hyperresponsiveess (AHR). This causes widespread, but variable narrowing of the airways, obstructing airflow, and causing symptoms such as:

  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing
  • Tightness of chest

The narrowing of the airways can be caused by 3 main factors:

  1. Swelling of the inside lining of airways (oedema)
  2. Increased mucus production
  3. Tightening (spasm) of the muscles surrounding the airways (bronchoconstriction)

 

The cause of asthma remains unclear; however, research has shown links to genetics and the environment. Possible causes and contributing factors of asthma may include:

  • Allergens
  • Air pollutants
  • Obesity

 

Some people only have asthma during exercise or when completing physically demanding tasks. This is called exercise-induced asthma. But this does not mean people with asthma should not exercise. For example, many Olympians and professional athletes have asthma. As long as a person’s symptoms are managed, they can participate in any activity or sport (American Lung Association, 2020).

 

How is asthma managed?

Asthma should be managed through developing an Asthma Action plan with a primary health care provider. Usually this would include pharmacological management with Asthma medications that are categorised into controllers, relievers and/or preventor medications. The primary management of asthma is pharmacological with exercise having a secondary role.

 

How does exercise benefit people with asthma?

Research indicates that people living with asthma limit their exercise to avoid triggering respiratory symptoms. However, well-controlled asthma should not limit or restrict any persons’ ability to participate in physical activity.

Exercise has a role in assisting people living with asthma to lead as normal a physical lifestyle as possible, which should allow participation in sports and daily activities (Morton & Fitch, 2011).

Regular exercise has been shown to have many benefits to people living with asthma. These benefits include:

  • Increased aerobic fitness
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Increased blood flow to the lungs
  • Reduced likelihood of provoking exercise induced asthma

Exercise training may also reduce the perception of breathlessness through other mechanisms including strengthening of the respiratory muscles.

 

“Similarly, studies have shown that that physical training led to significant reductions in the use of both inhaled and oral steroid medications used to treat and manage asthma.”

 

Important considerations for people exercising with asthma

It is important for people with asthma to take their pre-exercise medication, and engage in an exercise program consisting of a warm-up, a period of aerobic exercise and a cool down prescribed by an Accredited Health Professional such as an Exercise Physiologist.

 

Generally, aerobic exercise should start at a low intensity and be gradually increased as fitness levels improve. While people with asthma can participate in all types of exercise, swimming has been shown to be one of the best forms of exercise as it is less likely to trigger an asthma attack, helps to develop good breathing techniques and increases lung capacity.

It is recommended that people with asthma engage in aerobic training of low to high intensity 3 – 5 times per week and resistance (strength) training 2 or more times weekly (Exercise is Medicine, 2014).

 

If you need an individualised exercise program to help you manage your asthma, give Longevity Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista, and Neutral Bay a call on 1300 964 002 to book in a session today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Ellen Spencer

References:

American Lung Association. (2020, March). Benefits of Exercise When you have Asthma. Retrieved from American Lung Association: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma/living-with-asthma/managing-asthma/asthma-and-exercise

Asthma Australia. (2021, January). Asthma Australia Submission to the Australian Government Department of the Treasury. Retrieved from Asthma Australia: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-05/171663_asthma_australia.pdf

Exercise is Medicine. (2014, May ). Asthma and exercise. Retrieved from Exercise is Medicine: http://exerciseismedicine.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2014-Asthma-FULL.pdf

Morton, A. R., & Fitch, K. D. (2011). Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science position statement on exercise and asthma. Science Direct, 312-316.

Ram, F. S., Robinson, S. M., & Black, P. N. (2000 ). Effects of physical training in asthma: a systematic review. Br J Sports Medicine, 162-167.