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Asthma

I'm 12 and Have Asthma. Can I Work Out?

08/10/2011

Question:

I really want to start to workout, but the problem is I have asthma. I am trying to get rid of it, can I still exercise? I am 12 years old.

Answer:

Not only can you work out, but regular exercise should be part of any asthma program. One of the goals of asthma management is to enable asthma sufferers to function normally, including a regular exercise routine. There are some factors that may need to be considered in developing an exercise program for persons with asthma. 

 
First, although you cannot 'get rid' of asthma, the first step to leading a normal life with asthma is to maintain good control of your asthma. This includes taking medications as prescribed. Following your lung function with a peak flow meter may help detect early changes in lung function so you stay on top of symptoms before they become a problem. Sometimes treating early can prevent a more severe asthma attack. 
 
Second, a peak flow meter is also useful in assessing the effects of exercise by measuring peak flows before and after activity. A drop in peak flow after exercise, especially if you have symptoms of cough or wheeze, may mean that you have exercise-induced asthma. If so, treatment with medications such as albuterol before exercise may prevent the symptoms of exercise induced asthma. 
 
Third, some forms of exercise are better suited for patients with asthma. For example, swimming has been shown to be particularly beneficial for many asthma sufferers. Obviously, it is important to avoid situations that may trigger an asthma attack. For example, if you have allergies, horseback riding in a dusty arena would not be ideal. 
 
Fourth, don't over do it at first. Start slowly and build up. I usually recommend thirty minutes per day, 4-5 days per week. This includes a warm up, then 5-10 minutes of strengthening. You can then begin about 15-20 minutes of aerobic exercise and end with about 5 minutes of stretching, biking, swimming -- basically any exercise that increases your heart rate. Again, start slowly, say with a walk, and increase your pace a little every week. 
 
Fifth, you may have to back down or quit your exercise program when you have an asthma attack. Wait until you are feeling better and peak flows are up and restart slowly. 
 
Sixth, these are general guidelines to start an exercise program. It is always a good idea to discuss your plans with your doctor. He or she may help you develop an individual exercise plan based on your specific asthma symptoms. You may also need to modify your medications to fit your exercise plan.

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Response by:

Patricia   Joseph, MS, MD Patricia Joseph, MS, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati