It is important to note that depending on the severity of your condition,  and  on  your  general  medical  history,  you may need to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime. Physical exercise is essential for every asthma sufferer. In fact physical exercise and plenty of it is beneficial for everyone –  asthma  sufferer  or  not  – but  unfortunately   the  modern lifestyle very often encourages long periods of inactivity. Exer- cise should not be limited to young people or people involved in sport; it is beneficial to everyone provided that they exercise within their own limits. I have taught children as young as four and adults up to eighty-eight  years old. The advice is the same to each and every one of them – spend as much time outdoors as possible and take some form of exercise.

People attending  work-related  training  courses  will be familiar with the  mantra  that  applies to any newly learned skill: use it or lose it. This is as true for our bodies as for our minds and it is especially true for asthma sufferers. The human  body was designed  to lead a physically active life, therefore  continued  good health and well-being requires some  degree  of exercise. Over the  years research  has  consistently shown that, compared  to those who take little or no exercise,  people  who  exercise  regularly  are  healthier,  live longer,  have greater  inner  calmness,  are more  content  and cope better with life’s stresses and strains.

transUnfortunately, as asthma often limits physical capabilities,  the  tendency  is  to  try  to  avoid  asthma  attacks  by avoiding  exercise. This  has been  proven  in  a number  of studies that have shown people with asthma have lower cardiovascular   fitness   than   those   who   do  not   have asthma. A major step towards improving asthma is to take plenty of exercise and to take it regularly, but to stay within individual physical capabilities when  doing  so. Many  researchers have recommended this lifestyle practice for all children and adults with asthma.


There are two big differences between our lifestyle and that of a couple of generations ago: they tended  to eat less and  more  healthily and  had  a  far  more  physically active lifestyle (even if they had never heard the phrase). Nowadays we have fallen into a sedentary routine – one that is having a disastrous effect on the health of the nation. Few of us walk or cycle to work, we drive or are driven and few of us have jobs that require much serious physical effort. Many of us do take exercise during  our free time but many more are addicted to TV and/or the pub culture.

Young people follow a similar pattern and in the educational rat race that is a by-product of the Irish points system there is less and less time given to sport or indeed any form of  physical  activity. However,  educational  research  shows that  a good  balance  between  sporting activity and  study is extremely beneficial for students.

Most  of  our  day is spent  sitting  and,  as if this  wasn’t enough  for  the  body to  contend  with, we then  add  stress, smoking, overeating and eating inappropriately. It is no wonder that the population of the western world is becoming  less and less healthy and, as a result, putting more and more pressure on national  health services. As one commentator suggested: ‘If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all.’

Taking exercise that is appropriate for the body helps to strengthen the immune  system, gives the body more energy and builds up strength. We need  to exercise and those who suffer from asthma need it most.



What sort of exercise?


It seems that the answer to the question  is: whatever sort of exercise you like. Commencing exercise after a long period of minimal  physical activity requires  a number  of points to be considered  first. Go for something you like doing, or could get to like. If you’re into  record keeping,  then  by all means  chart  your progress, but it isn’t essential. Just try to achieve a little more each week; you’ll know yourself how you’re doing. Slow and steady is the way to go. Don’t be too ambitious when starting off, but do try to progress week to week – walk, or cycle, jog or swim further, faster and for longer.

Exercise within your capabilities. Try not to miss a day – make your daily exercise routine  a priority. Beware of over training,  you won’t enjoy  it and  it won’t help  you in  the longer term. Get out into the open air whenever you can, it’s healthier  and  also enjoying  yourself  will help  you to  feel better. We should exercise because we enjoy it and because we feel better for it. Adopting the attitude that ‘taking exercise is a drag’ will make success difficult. Even if the physical activ- ity is not enjoyable at first because it may represent  a major lifestyle change, try to stick with it or perhaps try a different activity. Eventually it will become  enjoyable;  after  all, it is what the body was designed for.

There are gyms all over the country and these are ideal during  the  winter,  or  when  the  weather  is bad.  However exercising  outdoors beats  any  gym  and  there  is  a  whole range of options in this field.

Depending  on which part of the country you live in, it is possible to walk by the sea, along a river or canal bank, or by the  shores  of a lake and  there  are  still country  lanes  not infested with speeding  traffic. Alternatively just walk around your own town or city – you should  be able to find  somewhere to go and you may even have a park nearby.

If personal preference  or necessity, or a sociable nature, means  opting  for the indoors  alternative  then  a gym is the next best  thing. The exercise bike is a good  alternative  to cycling on roads (and a lot safer), rowing machines are pleasant to use, climbing  machines  are easier on the joints than the treadmills, but there’s a whole range of exercise options available. Swimming   proves   very  beneficial   for   people   with asthma, and swimming  is a topic that will be discussed in a later blog.

Exercise is a very good  and, in fact, essential  element in  controlling  asthma.  While exercise is very beneficial  in temporarily increasing  carbon dioxide levels and condition- ing the body to accept a higher level, it does not change the underlying  breathing  pattern.  Reduced breathing  by relaxa- tion  is  the  only  breathing   exercise  that  will do  this.  For example, exercising diligently for an hour each day then spending  the  rest  of the  day going  about  with the  mouth open causes the benefits  accrued from the increased carbon dioxide to be lost.

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