Having asthma does not mean you should avoid exercise- it’s actually quite the opposite! Just like keeping healthy muscles and bones, exercise can help keep healthy lungs. Children especially need to create good habits of exercise at an early age to avoid childhood obesity and early diabetes. We are finding more and more that children are suffering from these preventable diseases because they lack exercise and good nutrition.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that being overweight is a serious health concern for children and adolescents. Data from two NHANES surveys (1976–1980 and 2003–2004) show that the prevalence of overweight is increasing: for children aged 2–5 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 13.9%; for those aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 18.8%; and for those aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 17.4% Since the mid-seventies, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased sharply for both adults and children. Data from two NHANES surveys show that among adults aged 20–74 years the prevalence of obesity increased from 15.0% (in the 1976–1980 survey) to 32.9% (in the 2003–2004 survey).
We know we need to exercise and having asthma whether you are an adult or child brings some concerns. First let’s look at exercise and then address having asthma. Exercise can be broken down into two main categories: cardiovascular and resistance training. Children engaging in group family activities are getting some of both of these. Adults would need to break them up into categories since your muscles have been developed enough to handle most recreational sports. I want to outline them so parents understanding the benefits for them as well as their children.
What Does Cardiovascular Training Provide?
- Lowers resting heart rate—decreases amount of work the heart has to do by decreasing the number of beats per minute
- Improved circulation
- Increases strength and energy levels
- Increases hormone production which aids in creating a better mood
- #1 cause of death in USA is heart disease, workout aids in preventing heart disease and correcting symptoms of existing heart disease.
- Lowers cholesterol
- •Increases oxygen flow and blood flow—improved brain function and energy output
Exercising with Asthma
Make sure to always be prepared with your inhaler and be current with your medications. Consult with your doctor before beginning a program and make sure to have regular check ups if needed to monitor your body’s response. If you start to feel an attack, stop what you are doing and try to cool down. Try to stay away from pollen, dust, smog and other triggers if you are exercising outside. The Lung Association’s 5 steps for what to do in an asthma attack are:
- STOP any activity
- Take your blue rescue inhaler
- Sit up
- If the medicine is not working, call 911
- If symptoms are not getting better, keep taking your blue rescue inhaler until the ambulance arrives
Recommendations for exercise duration and frequency
If you or your child has been inactive for over 6 months, make sure to start off slowly. I would recommend 2-3 exercise “sessions” a week for duration of 20-30 minutes. This can be as simple as walking the dog around the block. You want to also monitor your intensity level. There are 2 ways to monitor intensity of exercise: heart rate and rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Using a heart rate monitor for cardiovascular exercise is the safest way to really know how hard you are working. The monitor consists of a strap you put around your waist and a watch that reads it. RPE is subject to each individual’s perception of how hard they think they are working which most of the time not as accurate as using a heart rate monitor.
I recommend using both but you want to make sure you are at least working at a level 5 or 6 on a scale of difficulty of 1-10. I would recommend the heart rate monitor for all adult s but it only may be needed in severe cases of asthma in children in the beginning of an exercise program. As your fitness level progresses, so can your intensity. How you set the target heart rate zone depends on your age, your resting heart rate and your goal. Read the instructions that come with the monitor to being the process of programming the watch. Because each person is different and unique, I encourage you to give me a call and we can help you set up the zones that are appropriate for you (http://www.invisiblefitness.com).