However, a new report from The Cochrane Library turns these fears on their head. The authors conclude that not only is it safe for people with asthma to exercise, but it could also reduce their risk of asthma symptoms or attacks!
Study author, Kristin Carson, from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Clinical Practice Unit, Adelaide, Australia explains that over time patients with asthma who avoid exercise can become out of shape, losing muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness. That makes any future attempts at physical activity significantly harder, increasing the chances that patients will become fatigued and breathless and further discouraging physical activity. “This results in a spiraling cycle,” she says, in which patients are even more likely to avoid exercise.
To determine whether exercise was a danger to asthmatics, Carson and her colleagues reviewed previous studies that looked at the effects of physical training on people with asthma comparing patients who received no or minimal physical activity to those who exercised for at least 20 minutes, twice a week, over the course of four weeks.
The researchers found that the patients who had exercised, using physical training such as running outdoors or on a treadmill, cycling, swimming or circuit training were no more likely to have a serious asthma-related problem than those who weren’t exercising or who did light exercising such as yoga.
The patients who exercised also improved their cardiovascular fitness, which in turn can reduce asthma symptoms over time. There was also some evidence to suggest that exercise improved patients’ quality of life.
“We found no reason for people with stable asthma to refrain from regular exercise,” Carson said. “Physicians should encourage their patents with stable asthma to engage in physical training programs.”
Even though this research suggests that exercise is safe for asthmatics, we suspect that many people will still think they can use their asthma as a reason to avoid physical activity.
- Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who in 2000 was named top female athlete of all time by Sports Illustrated for Women
- Amy Van Dyken, US Olympic swimmer who won four gold medals at the Athens Games and two more in Sydney, four years later
- Paula Radcliffe, women’s world record holder in the marathon, three-time winner of the London Marathon, two-time New York Marathon champion, and winner of the 2002 Chicago Marathon
- Dennis Rodman, who won 5 NBA championships and led the league in rebounding for a record seven straight years
- Jerome “The Bus” Bettis who in addition to being an NFL Rookie of the Year went on to play 13 seasons in the league, winning a Super Bowl in the process.
Do you have any asthma and exercise stories to share?