What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. With asthma, there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen carrying air to the lungs. This results in the symptoms of asthma, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and a sense of chest tightness.
Regular physical activity and exercise improves quality of life whether you’re healthy or have a respiratory condition. Many people associate keeping fit with maintaining a healthy heart, losing weight and reducing the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, but exercise also helps keep your lungs healthy, it increases their capacity and the efficiency with which they work.
Regular exercise can help reduce asthma symptoms by:
- Improving how well your lungs work so you have more stamina and can do more before you feel out of breath.
- Exercise increases the blood flow to your lungs, allowing the lungs to deliver more oxygen into the blood.
- Boosting your immune system so your asthma is less likely to be triggered by coughs and colds.
- Maintain a healthy weight which will reduce your risk of symptoms and an asthma
- Improves mood and helps you manage anxiety.
Other benefits of exercise include:
- Increased energy levels throughout the day
- Stabilized blood sugar levels
- Strengthened bones and muscles
- A better night’s sleep
These facts hold true for both adults and children living with asthma but it’s important to consider that exercise does have the potential to cause asthma flare-ups, leading to wheezing and breathlessness. This risk can make both kids and their parents feel anxious about sports and exercise, but exercise poses very little risk when asthma is under control.
If you’re holding off making a start because you’re worried about asthma symptoms talk it through with your GP, an asthma nurse or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. They might be able to recommend suitable management strategies and help you develop an asthma plan.
Children really benefit from exercise and current health guidelines suggest they need at least one hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. This sort of habit will also stand them in good stead for a healthier life as an adult. Like grown-ups, kids are much more likely to stick to an exercise routine if they choose an activity they enjoy doing and that fits easily into your family’s schedule. Ask your child to think about whether they might prefer a group activity, or to exercise solo or with someone one on one. There are so many sports and activities to choose from it should be easy to find something that they really enjoy doing, and to have fun and try new things!
Top tips for kids exercising with asthma
- Always have your reliever inhaler with you. If you have asthma symptoms when you exercise, stop, take your reliever inhaler and make sure you wait for your symptoms to dissipate before starting again.
- Where possible avoid exercising in the cold if it tends to trigger your asthma. If it’s just a walk, wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth to warm the air before it gets to your airways.
- If you know pollen is a trigger for your asthma, avoid exercising outside when the pollen count is high and make sure you’re taking the right medicines to treat your hay fever alongside your usual asthma medicines.
- Tell people about your asthma, whether it’s your Exercise Physiologist, your coach or your exercise buddy, so they can recognise your asthma symptoms and help you if they get worse.
- Make sure you have an asthma action plan so you know what to do if your asthma symptoms come on.
- Warm up and cool down before and after exercise with some stretches to help with your flexibility and the range of movement in your joints. A walk, jogging or skipping can help to warm up your muscles.