If you exercise outside, you need to be aware of the air quality, especially at a time when smoke and particulates from a wildfire in Canada can trigger asthma symptoms in people thousands of miles away.
Many have been put “through the wringer” when starting out, discouraging them from continuing, Nadolsky says. “They were too sore, and it felt more like punishment.”
The Global Initiative for Asthma recommends twice-weekly cardio and strength training.
That’s a key difference from conventional cardio, where the constant exertion can evaporate water from the lungs faster than your body can replenish it. “Dehydrating of the airways can, in some, trigger exercise-induced asthma,” O’Neill says.
But that doesn’t mean exercise should be avoided, she said.
Make Sure the First Steps Aren’t the Last Steps
“A health care professional should be consulted” before you start a new activity or ramp up a program, or anytime asthma interferes with a workout, George says.
A few simple guidelines can help you reap those benefits while staying safe.
“You always start low and slow,” says Spencer Nadolsky, DO, a board-certified obesity and lipid specialist and medical director of Sequence, a comprehensive weight management program.
Being inactive puts you at higher risk for obesity and all the health problems that go with it. And allowing your fitness level to decline makes it much harder to move when you need or want to.
One minute you’re enjoying a walk or a bike ride. You’re breathing easy, your symptoms under control.
How to Choose the Best Type of Exercise
Second, give yourself plenty of time to warm up. A solid warm-up routine – particularly one with a mix of lower- and higher-intensity exercises – may help prevent exercise-induced asthma (bronchoconstriction), a narrowing of the airways during hard physical activity that causes shortness of breath and wheezing.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a promising option for people with asthma. A 2021 study showed that three 20-minute interval workouts a week significantly improved asthma control.
For example, if you warm up on a treadmill or exercise bike, you could mix in a few short bursts of faster running or cycling, with a couple of minutes of recovery at a slower pace in between.
The next minute you feel things change. It might start with a cough. Or labored, wheezing breaths. Or tightness in your chest and lungs. They’re all telltale signs of an asthma attack.
Aug. 30, 2023 — Asthma is a sneaky foe.
The harder you work, the higher your “ventilation,” meaning you’re taking more air into your lungs, and potentially more allergens and pollutants.
Temperature and humidity also become risky at the extremes. Cold, dry air can dehydrate and constrict the airways, making it hard to breathe.
“The benefit of HIIT is that ventilation is able to recover intermittently,” says Carley O’Neill, PhD, an exercise scientist at Acadia University in Nova Scotia and the study’s lead author.
As their fitness improves, asthma patients report better sleep, reduced stress, improved weight control, and more days without symptoms. In some cases, they’re able to cut down their medication doses.