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Are people with asthma right to give up physical activity?

People with asthma often give up sport altogether out of fear for their health and their lives. But is it right? We find out if asthma really rules out physical activity.

Asthma and exercise – debunk the myths!

Many people with asthma avoid exercise like the plague for fear of experiencing shortness of breath. However, the popular claim that people with asthma are not able to do sport is not to be believed. There are several scientific studies that have shown that the presence of shortness of breath is not at all a contraindication to regular exercise. In fact, there is no doubt that any form of exercise can be very beneficial – asthma sufferers just need to be careful.

It is advisable to check with your doctor before taking up regular exercise. Key questions to ask include whether exercise causes shortness of breath, how long you can exercise without shortness of breath, whether symptoms occur during or just after exercise. A specialist will certainly be able to make a diagnosis and then help us prevent the symptoms from occurring. The most common preventive method is to take 1-2 inhalations of a fast-acting β2-mimetic (fenoterol or salbutamol) before a training session. Also important is appropriate chronic treatment with glucocorticosteroids. To sum up, even if you suffer from asthma, it is not worth giving up amateur sports. Exercise is good for your health, and with properly selected exercises you will also enjoy a great sense of well-being.

Asthma and competitive sport

As we have already established, asthma is not a contraindication for amateur physical activity. So the next question is – how does it relate to professional sport? The best answer is that many professional athletes suffer from asthma and it doesn’t stop them from being successful. Suffice it to say that the Polish Olympic champion Otylia Jedrzejczak, among others, struggled with the ailment and many times outperformed her “healthy” rivals. Moreover, in some disciplines the percentage of asthmatic patients is higher than in the general population, and asthma medication not only does not interfere with exercise, but can also improve the performance of the body. As you can see, asthma does not rule out competitive sport, although certain precautions must be taken here as well.

First of all, it is worth remembering that some asthma medicines are on the infamous list of prohibited preparations – a competitor struggling with the ailment must therefore provide the organizers of a given event with appropriate certificates (confirmation of illness and a list of taken medication). It is also important to bear in mind that not every discipline is suitable for asthmatics. Although you can never be too careful, it is advisable to exercise caution, particularly in extreme sports such as diving and in sports where the air is dry or cold (ice-skating or cross-country skiing). With proper preparation, nothing is impossible and a person with asthma can outperform his or her opponents who are completely unaffected by the condition.

main photo: Brar

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