Running

Running and your respiratory health

By June 18, 2018 March 7th, 2019 No Comments
 Can you run if you have breathing problems asks Radhika Meghanathan. 
Here’s the truth – you can develop breathing problem at any age, even if you are a seasoned runner. When you run, your muscles need more oxygen than usual, and thus your respiratory system needs to work quickly and more efficiently to deliver this oxygen. If there’s any problem in the airways or the lungs, this delivery will not happen seamlessly and that’s when you find it difficult to breathe. The reasons such problems may be caused, are as follows, from the least serious to most:
  1. Seasonal allergies:

A common symptom of an allergy is the closing up of airways and breathing problems. This is a relatively minor block, since all you need to do is to take care of your allergies. “For those who are allergic to dust or pollen, the solution is very easy. Avoid running outdoors in spring or dusty paths; instead, choose a clean, preferably air-conditioned environment,” advices Dr Thilagavathy, consultant pulmonologist and somnologist at Vijaya Hospital, Chennai.

  1. Exercise-induced breathing issues:

Do you struggle to breathe while you are exercising, but feel fine during other times? In this case, you may have breathing related issues. Unfortunately, there is no instant cure for this, since the causes of this can be three-fold:

  • Being overweight: When you carry extra kilos, it not only puts pressure on your knees and limbs but also on your heart and lungs. The obvious solution to this is to consult your GP and a good nutritionist, to adapt a healthy and sustainable diet that will encourage weight loss. Once your body loses some of its excess fat, you will it easier to run without any breathing issues.
  • Exercise induced Asthma: If you experience shortness of breath and wheezing only while running, then you me suffering from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Symptoms may also include coughing, fatigue and chest pain. “If you have this condition, it’s not advisable to run,” says Dr Thilagavathy. But those who have normal asthma need not despair. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has published a study that revealed that asthma sufferers can vastly improve their respiratory health by doing 30 minutes of aerobic activity like running, at least thrice a week.
  • Having cardiovascular issues: If you do not have enough oxygen in your blood due to heart disease, there is a high chance that you will experience breathing issues. If it persists, you may have to temporarily halt running and consult your doctor, who may recommend you for pulmonary rehabilitation, which will help you to exercise with less shortness of breath.
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    3. Lung Disorders:

What if you are an avid runner but develop some lung or heart issues? “Even if you suffer from chronic lung disorders, if you take the right medication and have it under control, you can even compete at the Olympics!” assures Dr Thilagavathy. “The key is to have a regular exercise schedule. Running will strengthen the breathing muscles if the runner selects the right amount and intensity of the sport. People with lung disease should exercise as much as they can, as long as they clear their fitness routine with their primary care physicians.”

If you want to take care of your lungs, Dr Thilagavathy advises some form of pulmonary care on a regular base. “Do not be scared by the term ‘Pulmonary rehabilitation’, even pranayama comes under it. Anybody can benefit from pulmonary exercises; your physiotherapist can give you the best tips on how to improve your lung capacity, whether you are a runner or not,” she says.

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Radhika Meganathan

Radhika Meganathan

Radhika Meganathan is a published author who is an advocate for healthy living, she practices sugar-free intermittent fasting, all-terrain rambling and weight training.