Running is a sport that should be enjoyed by all, even if you are asthmatic, writes Deepthi Velkur.
“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up” – Dean Karnazes.
I’m sure most of us enjoy running outdoors as it gives us the opportunity to see people go about their daily lives, enjoy the local scenery and breathe in the fresh air. Unfortunately, it does have a flip side too – it exposes asthmatics to various environmental triggers such as air pollution and pollen. But, does that mean that asthma and running are a bad mix?
Going by extensive research done over the years, the answer is NO. So, if you have been recently diagnosed with asthma or been having asthma for years but been sceptical to take up running, there is nothing to worry about if it’s properly managed and you could continue living a normal healthy life which includes running and other exercises.
Across the world, we have many runners who suffer from asthma and one fine example is Paula Radcliffe, a British long-distance runner and marathon world record holder. She was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma at the age of 14 but she pushed on and showed the world that an asthmatic like her could excel at a cardio-intensive sport like running.
How does running trigger an Asthma attack?
Although it’s not known clearly what triggers asthma, medical experts speculate that when people exercise (running being on top of the list) they tend to breathe heavily and faster thereby making it difficult for the nose and upper airways to warm add moisture to the air they breathe in. This makes the air in the air passage more dryer and colder thereby triggering exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Some of the symptoms include cough, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest area.
Proper management of your asthma.
At first, consulting and getting a go-ahead from your doctor before you engage in any form of exercise is paramount. Work closely with your doctor to educate yourself, understand your condition and also when to use the prescribed medication or inhaled steroid treatment. You must bring your asthma under control before you take up running.
Before taking to the road.
It’s always better to run in warm and humid conditions rather than cold climates. But if you do run in cold weather, cover your face with either a scarf or a mask to keep away the cold air from irritating your air passage. Also avoid running in a place or select a suitable time in the day where you don’t have to deal with asthma triggers such as pollen, smog, heavy traffic or where you find lots of grass or trees. Before you go on your run, doing a warm-up is essential as this helps your body prepare for the high-intensity exercise later.
During the run.
Start slowly and don’t overdo it with your running. Gradually build your pace over a period of time. During the run, if you’re feeling dizzy or have a difficulty in breathing, take a break and rest until your breathing has returned to normal. Always listen to your body while running and rest as and when required. Sometimes, Intervals (short bursts of running) followed by short rest periods work better than longer periods of heavy exertion. While warming up at the start of physical activity is important, cool down at the end is as important too. Cooling down should be done at a slow pace for about 10mins and by doing this you are allowing your body to avoid sudden changes in the temperature in the airways.
In short, if you follow the below guidelines, it will help you have a safe workout:
- Always have your inhaler with you at all times and use it at the first sign of wheezing
- An extended warm-up and cool-down should be incorporated into your exercise routine
- To prevent EIA, use your inhaler several minutes before you start your exercise
- To start with, exercise at low intensities and build gradually over a period of time
- Drinking plenty of fluids before and during the workout is a must
- If you notice any asthma symptoms, at once reduce the intensity of your workouts
- Being aware of the environmental factors- high/low temperatures, high air pollution, and pollen count.
By managing your asthma properly and taking the necessary precautions before, during, and after your run, you can safely train and participate in this wonderful sport. So lace up those shoes and run with it!