person sitting on sofa reaching for asthma inhaler

Asthma is a long-term breathing condition that affects your airways. Your airways are the small tubes that transport air in and out of your lungs. When these tubes encounter irritants, they become inflamed, causing them to narrow, which impacts breathing. This is how asthma affects the respiratory system. It’s for this reason that people with asthma will feel breathless and wheezy. However, these symptoms will vary in severity from person to person.

Asthma’s Impact on Daily Life

In the general population worldwide, asthma affects more than 300 million people (2023). Here in the UK alone, Asthma UK reports 5.4 million people with asthma.

Asthma tends to run in families, so genetic predisposition is a risk factor. Another risk factor affecting daily life is environmental. Daily exposure to particles that may irritate the airways or give rise to an allergic reaction can affect everyday life. These may include tobacco smoke, house dust mites, pet dander, pollen or air pollution.

In addition to genetic predisposition and environmental irritants, there are also other triggers that can affect your respiratory system.

Asthma Triggered by Exercise

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), previously known as exercise-induced asthma, or EIA, occurs when physical activity becomes the trigger for asthma symptoms, typically arising during or after exercise. Triggers can include physical exercise and cold air, leading to exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. In fact, EIB is prevalent among winter Olympic athletes, affecting various disciplines, including cross-country skiers, ice-hockey players and figure skaters.

Symptoms of EIB will surface only while exercising, or immediately following exercise, when symptoms feel worst of all before gradually improving.  It is estimated that 90% of all people who have asthma also have EIB and it is possible to have EIB even if you don’t have asthma. Treatment for EIB usually involves long-term medication. But there is also a complementary treatment that is drug-free and can be used alongside medication. That is POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).

Natural Asthma Treatment Without Drugs

Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) with devices like the POWERbreathe Medic are scientifically proven to be effective in asthma management for reducing symptoms:

  1. Inspiratory muscle training improves lung function and reduces exertional dyspnoea in mild/moderate asthmatics – McConnell, A. K., M. P. Caine, et al. (1998). Clinical Science 95(2): 4P.
  2. Inspiratory muscle training in patients with bronchial asthma 
  3. Specific inspiratory muscle training in patients with mild asthma with high consumption of inhaled beta(2)-agonists
  4. The relationship among inspiratory muscle strength, the perception of dyspnea and inhaled beta2-agonist use in patients with asthma
  5. Influence of gender and inspiratory muscle training on the perception of dyspnea in patients with asthma
  6. Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training and High-Intensity Interval Training on Lung Function and Respiratory Muscle Function in Asthma
  7. Inspiratory muscle training and respiratory exercises in children with asthma
  8. A randomized placebo-controlled study investigating the efficacy of inspiratory muscle training in the treatment of children with bronchial asthma

POWERbreathe IMT is proven to strengthen the inspiratory muscles without side effects or drug interactions (see Precautions and Contraindications). However, we always recommend that you consult a specialist respiratory therapist or your GP before starting IMT.

Asthma’s Influence on Breathing During Exercise

Breathlessness is a common feature of exercise. Shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are also symptoms of asthma. So exercise can exacerbate asthma symptoms, making breathing a challenge during exercise. This is especially so for those engaged in high-intensity training. With the breathing muscles weakening and tiring from exercise, breathing will feel harder still if you have asthma. However, strengthening the inspiratory muscles, like the diaphragm and intercostals, can improve breathing efficiency. Inspiratory Muscle Training with POWERbreathe provides resistance to these muscles, enhancing their strength and reducing breathing fatigue.

Asthma and Exercise

Despite asthma, exercise remains beneficial for overall health. Many elite athletes, such as former British long-distance runner, Paula Radcliffe and former British professional track and road cyclist, Dame Laura Kenny, effectively manage their symptoms. If you experience symptoms during exercise, use your reliever inhaler and wait until symptoms subside before continuing.

Practical Tips For Exercising With Asthma

  • Warm-up first, including an inspiratory muscle warm-up with an IMT device
  • Make sure you have your inhaler with you
  • Ensure people around you know that you have asthma
  • If you feel your symptoms coming on during exercise, take your reliever inhaler and wait until your symptoms subside

How Asthma Affects The Respiratory System

  1. Airway Inflammation & Hyperresponsiveness: Inflammation is typically triggered by allergens or irritants. This inflammation makes your airways sensitive and more prone to reacting to triggers, such as pollen, dust, cold air, or exercise. Hyperresponsiveness is when your airways become overly sensitive to certain triggers, causing the airways to narrow.
  2. Bronchoconstriction: Constriction of the bronchial tubes occurs due to muscle tightening around them, making it difficult for air to pass through. This leads to symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.
  3. Air Trapping: This occurs during an asthma attack, when the airways may become partially obstructed and make it difficult for air to escape from the lungs. This trapped air can lead to hyperinflation of the lungs, making it harder for you to breathe out fully.
  4. Reduced Lung Function: A decline in lung function can occur over time as a result of chronic inflammation and recurrent asthma attacks.
  5. Increased Mucus Production: Asthma can also cause an overproduction of mucus in the airways. This can be problematic as excess mucus further obstructs airflow, contributing to breathing difficulties.

Managing Excess Mucus in Asthma: Natural Solutions to Clear Your Airways

Excess mucus production poses a significant challenge for individuals with asthma, but natural remedies and techniques can help manage this issue effectively. By incorporating the use of the Shaker mucus clearance device into your asthma management plan, you can work towards clearer airways and better respiratory health. Find out more in our blog, How to get rid of phlegm in throat & lungs naturally.

Understanding asthma’s impact on your respiratory system will help in managing your symptoms effectively.