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Top tips for living well

This week marked World Asthma Day – 7 May. Here, Dr Thomas Antalffy shares his advice for asthma sufferers who want to kick start a new approach to living well.

Starting any new exercise regime can be challenging – especially when you’re out of practice and trying very hard to ditch the old habits. It’s important to set yourself up for success and build up slowly.

For the 5.4 million people in the UK living with asthma – that advice is especially relevant. If you’re an asthma sufferer, it might be tempting to sit back and think you have the ideal excuse, but regular exercise can help reduce asthma symptoms by improving how well your lungs work and by boosting your immune system.

Is it ok to exercise with asthma?

Yes! The whole point of your asthma treatment is to enable you to live a full life, and exercise is definitely part of that.

If you’re looking after your asthma well and your symptoms are under control, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy any type of exercise. Whether you choose to go for a brisk walk every day, join an exercise class, or even sign up for a marathon, by giving your lungs a regular workout, you’ll also cut your risk of asthma symptoms.

Eliminate triggers

Dust mites, smog, pollen, cold air, chest infections and cigarette smoke are some of the most common triggers. Make sure you know what triggers your asthma, and avoid the places and conditions that provoke it.

Ready, set, go

Using a peak flow meter before starting exercise will tell you whether your asthma is active in the background. If your readings have become worse in the past few days, be prepared to take it easy. Taking your reliever inhaler before sports is a good preventive measure. Elite athletes take their inhalers right before training sessions and races.

Be picky

If your asthma is well controlled and you’re feeling fit and well, there’s no reason to limit your choice of exercise. However, if your asthma is not so good at the moment, or you’re new to exercise, you may find that moderate activities suit you better.

Activities such as:

  • Walking – take it at your own pace and increase speed and distance gradually
  • Badminton or table tennis usually involve less running around than other racket sports such as tennis or squash
  • Team sports such as cricket, netball or rounders give you time to rest in between bursts of activity
  • Swimming can be particularly good for people with asthma
  • Yoga, Pilates or t’ai chi – choose a beginner’s class that will allow you to go at your own pace

If you haven’t been active for a while, take time to slowly build up your stamina. And remember, short bursts of activity are much better than endurance sports.

Call it quits

When you exercise, it’s normal for your heart to beat faster and your breathing to become quicker. But if you start to have asthma symptoms, you need to stop the activity and take your reliever inhaler quickly to avoid symptoms becoming worse.

It’s worth remembering as well that airway infections are behind 80% of asthma attacks. So always give exercise a break if you have a cold, flu, or a chest infection. If for any reason your asthma kicks in during exercise, then stop. Take it as a rule that by the time you can feel your asthma, it is out of control

As always, we could really like to hear from you. If you have a personal story to share in relation to this topic, do get in touch with us at:

*References available on request 

Dr Thomas Antalffy is the inventor of Smart Peak Flow, the world’s first medically certified asthma monitoring device that plugs into a smartphone.