Asthma is a long-term breathing condition that affects the airways. These are the small tubes that transport air in and out of the lungs. It’s these tubes that become inflamed when they come into contact with something that ‘irritates’ them. Consequently, the airways become narrower. And it’s for this reason that people with asthma feel breathless and wheezy. But these symptoms will vary in severity from person to person.
What causes asthma
In the general population, asthma affects approximately 235 million people. And here in the UK, one in every 12 adults is receiving treatment for it.
Asthma tends to run in families, so genetic predisposition is one risk factor. Another factor is environmental. For instance, exposure to particles that may irritate the airways or give rise to an allergic reaction. Such irritants 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. These can include physical exercise and cold air. So, it’s no surprise to discover that exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is the most common medical issue among winter Olympic athletes. In fact, almost 50% of cross-country skiers in the 2018 Winter Olympics have EIA. But it isn’t only the cross-country skiers who’re suffering. Short-track speed skaters (43%), figure skaters (21%) and ice hockey player (15%) also suffer.
What is EIA
Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is a condition where exercise itself becomes the trigger for an asthma event. Symptoms will surface only while exercising, or immediately following exercise. And the symptoms feel worst of all after exercise and then start to gradually improve. Treatment for EIA is the same, with long-term medicines that are taken daily. But there is also a natural treatment that is drug-free that can be used alongside medication. And that is Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).
Natural asthma treatment without drugs
Data exists from five randomised controlled trials that are unanimously supportive of the use of IMT with POWERbreathe in the management of asthma. In fact, the POWERbreathe Medic is clinically proven by a wealth of research, as well as, the first non-pharmacological treatment for respiratory disease and the only product of its kind on the drug tariff. It is a non-invasive treatment that is drug-free, with no side effects or drug interactions.
POWERbreathe IMT is not suitable for patients with certain conditions so please first consult your specialist respiratory health doctor.
How asthma affects exercise
Breathlessness is a common feature of exercise. Shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are also symptoms of asthma. So, imagine being an Olympic athlete performing high-intensity training above your lactate threshold. Then imagine being a winter Olympic athlete, with asthma. Breathing moves out of its comfort zone and increases steeply. And with the breathing muscles weakening and tiring, breathing feels harder still. It would be beneficial therefore to improve the state of the inspiratory muscles, mainly the diaphragm and intercostal.
It is possible to exercise specifically the inspiratory muscles with an inspiratory muscle training (IMT) device, such as POWERbreathe IMT. Such a device provides the inspiratory muscles with a resistance to breathe in against. This resistance training makes the inspiratory muscles work harder, improving breathing strength and stamina and reducing breathing fatigue.
What exercise helps asthma
Any form of exercise is good for you and will help keep heart and lungs healthy. In fact, many well-known, world-class athletes have this condition, such as runner Paula Radcliffe and cyclist Laura Trott.
If your symptoms are well managed, and your GP gives the go-ahead, then there’s no reason to limit your choice of exercise.
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 symptoms subside