As summer approaches many of our personal training clients, particularly in the more rural areas around Windsor, Maidenhead and Ascot, are starting to suffer their yearly bout of asthma misery. This week our in- house Guru (as he likes to call himself) Adam will be looking at some of the symptoms, causes and cures for this condition.
What is Asthma?
Asthma affects the small airways (bronchioles) that carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma your airways can become inflamed, swollen and constricted (or narrowed) and excess mucus is produced.
More than 5.2 million people in the UK are being treated for asthma and about 1.1 million of these are children. Asthma affects approximately one in 12 adults and one in eight children in the UK. What this means is that there is a person with asthma in one in five households in the UK. It can affect almost anyone, at any age, anywhere. An asthma ‘attack’ describes the symptoms of tightness in the chest, a wheezing or whistling noise in the chest, coughing and difficulty breathing that occur when the airways become narrowed, inflamed and blocked by plugs of mucus.
An attack can occur suddenly. However, many people with asthma learn to recognise the warning symptoms – such as an itchy nose or itchy skin, dizziness or light-headedness, or an irritating cough – that herald an attack. Learning the warning signs can often alert someone with asthma in time to take preventive action.
Asthma is a chronic condition, which means attacks occur over a long period of time. Although there are times when acute episodes strike asthmatics, most people can say there are long periods during which they have few, if any, symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tight feeling in the chest
It’s becoming increasingly common in the developed world and is now the most common chronic condition in the west. Aspects of our modern environment, such as air pollution, processed foods and centrally heated, double-glazed houses (ideal breeding grounds for house dust mites) are thought to be contributing factors.
Some people with asthma find that exercise triggers their asthma symptoms. However, exercise is good for everyone, including people with asthma. If your asthma is well controlled, you should be able to join in, have fun and keep fit. If your asthma symptoms get worse during or after exercise, it could be a sign that your asthma is poorly controlled and you may need to visit your doctor or asthma nurse for an asthma review.
Tips on exercising with Asthma:
- Make sure the people you are exercising with know you have asthma.
- Increase your fitness levels gradually.
- Always have your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you when you exercise.
- If exercise triggers your asthma, use your reliever inhaler immediately before you warm up.
- Ensure that you always warm up and cool down thoroughly.
- Try not to come into contact with things that trigger your asthma.
- If you have symptoms when you exercise, stop, take your reliever inhaler and wait until you feel better before starting again.
- If you use preventer medicine, take it as prescribed by your doctor or asthma nurse.
Good types of exercise to try if you suffer from asthma are:
- Yoga (helps to relax the body and improve your breathing technique)
- Fitness classes involving short periods of aerobic exercise
- Team sports such as football or hockey are less likely to cause asthma symptoms as they are played in brief bursts with short breaks in between.
- Swimming is usually an excellent form of exercise for most people with asthma. The warm humid air in the swimming pool is less likely to trigger symptoms of asthma. However, chlorine and swimming in cold water can trigger some people’s asthma, so proceed with caution.