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Diet & Nutrition

How to huff and puff with asthma

This month we talk to Dr George Janko, Medical Director, McKinnon Sports Medicine centre on his advice on how best to approach physical activity if you or a family member has asthma.

What is asthma?
Asthma is a breathing disorder caused by an over sensitivity of the linings of the airways, leading to constriction of the air ducts in the lungs.
What causes asthma?
It appears to be hereditary and is brought on by specific irritants, such as infections, dust, pollens, animals, fumes, nervous tension and in some people, vigorous exercise. Studies have shown that asthmatics react more adversely to exercise in dry conditions and cold conditions.
Should people with asthma avoid exercise?
Absolutely not! In fact, regular exercise is recognised as an important component of living with asthma. With continuous and gradual exercise, a person with asthma will develop greater respiratory muscle tone and possibly reduce the need for medication.
Asthma need not be a limiting factor in sport as modern preventative medications make it possible for asthmatics to reach their full potential. Medications such as Ventolin have made exercise more available to asthmatics. New bronchodilators which help reduce the muscle spasm in the airways leading to asthma, allow for twice daily dosage using sprays. Preventative medications can also reduce the sensitivity of the linings of the airways to irritants and thus reduce the need for Ventolin or other bronchodilators. These preventative medications can also reduce the risk of severe asthma attacks.
What is the best approach?
Obviously aerobic exercise eg. running, swimming or cycling are the best option for improving respiratory muscle tone. However, care should be taken with warm up and cool down and possibly avoiding exercising in cold conditions (eg. winter mornings). As asthma is a serious and potentially life threatening disease, it should not be taken lightly. Fitness testing under the guidance of a sports doctor can be of great use in designing exercise programs and ensuring asthmatics reach their full potential safely.

YOUR SAY: How do you cope with asthma and exercise? Tell us below...

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