Tips and Tricks for Exercising with Asthma
Tips and Tricks for Exercising with Asthma
Exercising while asthmatic can be a daunting prospect for many people, with some worried to begin exercising at all. Regular exercise can improve both physical and mental health so, if you can, it’s good to get started. Several members of the Mirafit team suffer from asthma and have put together a list of tips and tricks that have helped us get more active. We also talked to asthmatic Olympian Harry Aikines-Aryeetey about how he deals with his condition.
Before we continue, your physical health is your top priority. Don’t push yourself past your limits, keep your inhaler with you and we would always recommend speaking to your medical provider before beginning a exercise plan. You can find more information about getting active when you have asthma at the Asthma UK website.
It can be daunting to compare yourself to very athletic people, but everyone is at a different stage in their fitness journey. The NHS says that any type of activity is better than none. Here are a few ideas for if you want to start out with low impact exercises:
Go for a Walk
Don’t worry about speed or distance, both will improve as you do more walking. Put on a podcast or an audiobook and the distraction will make time fly by. Set a realistic goal, such as a set time or a waypoint and, once that feels comfortable, walk further or for a longer period of time.
Stretch with Yoga
Yoga will help to improve your flexibility. There are many options for beginner workouts on youtube and all you need to get started is a Yoga Mat.
Dance the Day Away
You don’t have to be doing the Cha-cha-cha or take up a swing dancing class to get active. Dancing in your living room to one song in the morning and one in the afternoon will help to increase your activity levels.
Step to it
With asthma, some people find that doing exercise little and often is easier than doing a full 30–90-minute session. Steppers are a great way to get some cardio at home. Get in some steps while waiting for the TV adverts to finish or for the kettle to boil.
If you’re following along with an exercise video and some moves feel too difficult, do something else! You can lunge, squat, do knee lifts or circle your arms. As your overall fitness improves you might find that exercises that used to be impossible become second nature.
Strength training has many benefits, including that you can stop and start as often as you need to. Starting with lighter weights at a high repetition can get you used to lifting weights and you can increase the weight as you improve.
Work Out with a Friend
If you’re concerned about exercising alone you can make it more fun by getting together with a friend (taking Covid precautions) or family member. Catch up on the latest news while walking, take a yoga class together, or play football with the kids in the garden.
...Or go it alone
A lot of people suffer from 'Gymtimidation', that concern that you’ll look unfit or less knowledgeable around other people. Even though asthma is nothing to be ashamed of, a lot of people can also feel embarrassed about exercising in public while asthmatic. Work out in the comfort of your own home or garden by downloading some exercise plans or following tutorials online.
Find Your Inspiration
A surprising amount of sportspeople suffer from asthma, including David Beckham, Mo Farah, Paul Scholes, Paula Radcliffe and our own Mirafit Ambassador Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. We recently chatted to him about Strength Training for Sprinters and he has told us about his struggles with asthma.
It might surprise people to hear about an asthmatic Olympian. You're a sprinter, but how do you find running in general?
I remember back in the days of doing cross-country at school. Everyone said “you’re really fast and you’ll be great at this” – I was way at the back! Distance is not my friend, but I think that you should expose yourself to different things. I’ll go for a ten-minute run; I’m doing the best that I can but I’m not breaking any sound barriers or records.
I’m working through it which will help supplement things during my training. I know that if I can improve a little each and every time and just get better at it then that’s going to help me in the grand scheme of things overall. It just goes to show that you may not be the best at everything, but if you can improve yourself in those areas, then you’re able to see the bigger picture and how much it improves your overall capacity.
Do you find that your asthma gets worse at certain times?
When I would try and do something different, that’s when I would feel my asthma. Conditions vary massively, when I’m in a cold environment that can take me some time to adjust and, equally, if it’s too hot you can’t take the breath in because you’re hyperventilating. As I’ve trained, my body has adapted, but it can just hit me off balance sometimes. If my breath gets taken away by the wind and I find myself gasping for air then where it does affect me is that I’m not able to get the oxygen around my body quick enough.
I’ve always got my asthma pump near and dear to me. When I did my peak flow test for someone of my age, weight, and height I was using 51% of my lung capacity and with my pump it goes up to 71%.
Does your asthma hold you back?
When my aerobic system is not as well oiled as some people, it is something that can be trained. When people find out I have asthma they say “oh, how do you run then?” Well, I’ve always sprinted and there are some things I’m fine with. As I focus on doing the indoor sprints that I’m doing now and when I focus on endurance work a bit more, you’ll see me bent over a bit more. I’m there like “this is me mate, this is how it is.”