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Running With Asthma: Tips And Safety Measures To Keep in Mind

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Usually, running and asthma are assumed to be mutually exclusive and assumed to never go hand in hand. Asthmatics suffer recurring attacks of breathlessness and are often reluctant to engage in running or any strenuous and prolonged physical activity. What happens during an asthma attack is that an individual’s bronchial tubes start getting inflamed and the airways begin to narrow, thereby causing a restriction in the airflow when breathing. And when you run and advance yourself physically, you tend to breathe faster and more unevenly, thereby making it more difficult for the nose and upper airways to moisten the air you inhale. As a consequence, you breathe in more dry and colder air which can easily trigger symptoms of exercise-induced asthma. These symptoms can include wheezing, tightness in the chest, coughing and shortness of breath.

Unfortunately, with regard to exercise-induced asthma, running ranks high on the list of strong triggers. This can be attributed to the fact that most running sessions happen continuously with short breaks and it mostly happens outdoors. Outdoor running makes an asthmatic runner more susceptible to colds while factors such as pollen and air pollution can act as fast triggers.

As a result, people who happen to have been diagnosed with asthma or have been suffering from asthmatic attacks for years tend to be reluctant to run. Hence it is important to keep in mind the proper management to be followed and techniques you have to adapt to have a normal exercise routine and lifestyle.

People with asthma can enjoy running equally as much as the other people enjoy, by indulging in specific methods on how to run with asthma and breathing exercises for running with asthma. If done safely and correctly, running and asthma can actually prove to be a healthy combination. But before we delve into these techniques and methods, it’s important to keep in mind of when, where and how you run.

The Running Essence: Time of the Day Matters

The time of the day and the season in which you run can make a significant difference when running with asthma. Running early in the morning and evening is more likely to trigger symptoms of asthma due to the high level of pollen in the air around this time. It is recommended that you run when the humidity is higher in the day or after rains, as not only would the pollen in the air be dispersed, but there is excess moisture in the air.

Livingit Tip:
It is vital that you shower and clean yourself immediately after your run to ensure that all the pollen is removed from your clothes and hair.

The pollution in the air gets worse later in the afternoon when smog levels rise up to the peak. This is especially true in bigger cities, and in such cases, it is better to run early in the morning. Running with asthma does need planning! Additionally, if the temperature seems too low, wear a cold weather mask or a fleece when you run, to keep yourself warm and your mouth covered.

cold weather mask for asthma
Cold Weather Running Masks

Finding The Right Spot For Running With Asthma is Difficult

Urban cities suffer from major air pollution problems due to traffic and heavy industrialization. Running with asthma is definitely not suitable in areas where the air quality can trigger many asthmatic symptoms. Poor levels of air quality create unnecessary problems for runners with asthma, and it’s strictly advised that runners avoid running near busy roads or in areas with lots of grass and dense forestries. 

Running with asthma is a continuous process and requires awareness. It won't be easy to find a place without pollution, but running at the correct time as mentioned above does make a difference. Keep in mind the external environment. If the weather of the environment around is excessively cold, dry, or if there’s too much pollution and dust in the air, running with asthma can prove to be problematic.

When necessary, it is advised that you run indoors, on a treadmill or even an indoor sports track. It reduces the risks of asthmatic symptoms majorly as it allows you to exercise in a controlled environment, free of allergens, pollution, smog and airborne particles that can trigger asthmatic attacks. 

The area in which you run can pose a major obstacle to overcome, particularly for those in the urban cities. The combination of physical exertion and pollution can trigger asthmatic symptoms very quickly.

How You Run Does Matter!

Running with asthma can be a tricky combination, and runners who suffer from asthmatic symptoms should preferably incorporate a well-utilized recovery session in between intervals as to avoid exercise-induced asthma attacks. This helps give your lungs and legs the time to recover, especially if you use this interval to focus on slow and on deep breathing to help lower your heart rate.

Livingit Tip
While running, always breathe through your nose.

Bursts of interval running also act as a fantastic way, to warm up, to trigger minor respiratory muscular spasms and symptoms and furthermore reduce the likeliness of larger and more severe spasms across the run. By altering and keeping careful watch of your running schedule, as per your individual needs, and in addition, avoiding areas of low temperatures, high pollen, and high pollution, you can construct a perfectly normal routine of running altogether.

Also, read Proper Running Form for Beginners!

Medical Management

Before all, it is crucial that you obtain an approval from your physician and healthcare specialists before you engage in any sort of physical activity when you suffer from asthma. Remember to let your doctor, completely brief you about your conditions and possible pros and cons of running with asthma, so that you can understand better when and how to manage your symptoms. You must also make sure to use appropriate prescribed medical intervention when needed. Once you learn to control your asthma, engaging in any running or athletic program should not be a dilemma at all.

Running with asthma does require a solid game plan. You can wear a medical ID badge or bracelet when you run. In the situation of an uncontrollable asthma attack, aid can be better provided by other people nearby as the medical ID badge or bracelet will encourage medical attendees in providing correct assistance.

Reconfirm your plan or aerobics program and the necessary precautions you need to take when in the case of an attack with your doctor.

  • Always carry a rescue or extra inhaler on your run.
  • Take as many puffs until the symptoms die down.
  • There are proper ways to breathe when running - through your nose and at a slow pace.
  • Balance the intensity of your running after consulting the severity and frequency of your asthma symptoms
  • You can even run with a friend or in a running group for extra caution.

Having asthma shouldn’t make you afraid of the tracks and it shouldn’t stop you from running also. While running with asthma can seem a little bit trickier, running regularly can facilitate in keeping your heart and lungs stronger, and optimally using up oxygen for your body - a process that people with asthma exactly need. By simply adjusting your running and aerobics schedule and manner to suit your individual needs and medical requirements, you can actually improve your asthma and even your overall health.

Breathing Techniques for Running With Asthma

One of all the important breathing techniques for asthma, during your run, is to control your breathing rate and the depth at which you inhale.

Avoid taking in air through your mouth. Breathing through your mouth tends to dry out your airways, and furthermore causes swelling, high blood pressure and elevated heart rate.

These symptoms can lead to dangerous asthma attacks where the wheezing and breathlessness can become extremely hard to get control. Thus, always have your inhaler and prescribed medication with you at all times, and use it in situations of wheezing

Take plenty of rest and keep yourself hydrated at regular intervals.  It’s advised you use a combination of short and high energy sprints with lower energy endurance activities to better manage your respiratory flow. 

Avoid over-breathing through your nose as it deprives your performance and can cause hyperventilation. Overbreathing while running with asthma can cause your upper respiratory structure to inflame and propel an asthma attack. Focus on taking slow and deep breaths and remember to always maintain your pace.

How to Run with Asthma? 7 Tips to Help You Manage

Tip #1

Apart from your inhaler, asthma medication also works by relaxing your airway muscles. When the muscles around your airways constrict, the asthmatic symptoms like coughing, tightening of the chest and wheezing, increase. You must always keep in mind when running with asthma, to carry your prescribed medication with you at all times, in order to manage any sudden triggers of asthmatic symptoms.

Tip #2

Use your inhaler several times before you start your run as it may help reduce your chances of exercise-induced asthma attacks. 

Tip #3

A good combination of exercises for asthma would involve an incorporation of a lengthy warm-up and a cool-down period before any aerobic program. Modify your running intensity in accordance with the magnitude of the asthmatic symptoms you experience during and after your run.

Tip #4

Warm up extensively before you go for a run. It allows your body to adjust to the oxygen requirements it needs during your run. A five-minute cool down period is necessary after every run to help regulate your breathing rate.

Livingit Tip:
It is best to avoid over exerting yourself and a good warm up is the best way to defend yourself from any sort of airway spasm or blockage

Tip #5

Remember to bundle up in cold weathers. 

Tip #6

Include plenty of whole foods in your diet. Avoid preservatives, including sulfites, parabens, benzoates, and nitrates, as they can trigger severe asthmatic attacks. Your body tends to react harshly react to these preservatives when you exercise intensely and these irritants can lead up to a severe asthma attack.

Tip #7

Always remember to carry a bottle of room temperature water with you on your run. This helps prevent your throat from getting dry, which can sometimes be a cause of an attack when running. Room temperature water is also easier on your lungs and keeps you hydrated when running.

breathing techniques for asthma
Always keep an Inhaler handy on your run (Source)

Coconut Water for Asthma Patients

Asthmatic patients are more prone to muscle cramps in hands and feet. The cramp worsens while running. Drinking coconut water can reduce the condition as it provides the body with the necessary electrolytes to avoid the attack of cramps and also nourishes the body.

Gear You Can Use During Runs

Running with asthma creates its own problems for runners as it increases the risk of attack. Most running gears do not come with the provision of holding inhalers during a run, but ‘Zipper Wristband’ comes with an inhaler holder.

Following the above steps and tips, and after a thorough and lengthy consultation with your doctor, you’ll learn that running with asthma can actually end up doing wonders in building up your respiratory muscles and structures. With a good game plan, which includes sufficient amount of warm-up sessions, you’ll be able to see that running can result in highly positive health benefits and ultimately end up outweighing the number of precautions and strategies you undertake to do it.

Always remember to keep your asthma in check and pay attention to your body during your runs for any signs or symptoms of an asthmatic attack, where the golden rule would be to know and abide by your physical limits. Asthmatic runners cannot compare their bodily capabilities to those non-asthmatic athletes and must know to modulate the intensity of their exercise in accordance with their asthmatic requirements and needs.

At the end of the day, running with asthma does come with a certain set of obstacles - whether it concerns your breathing when running, the external factors affecting your asthma, overexertion, etc., but once you figure out a strong set of safety measures you can easily and economically adopt, you can easily overcome these hurdles and actually start to enjoy your runs.

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