Don't let asthma get in the way of your relationship with fitness (unless your physician advises you otherwise). The key is to do the right kind — and amount — of exercise. Here are 10 asthma-friendly workouts that won’t take your breath away.
Would you believe that a sizable number of athletes suffer from asthma? Want proof? Just ask soccer legend David Beckam, marathoner Paula Radcliffe, or swimmer Michael Phelps! If they did not let asthma get in the way of their exercise regimen, you too can draw inspiration. So, get sweaty and breathe better!
Before making any lifestyle changes such as these workouts please consult your physician.
1. Pilates: Get to the core of it
A workout cherished by Hollywood stars, Pilates is a full body workout, with an emphasis on the core, aka the powerhouse of the body. A system of exercises which are intended to strengthen the human mind and body, the original six principles of Pilates focus on concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing. The emphasis on deliberate and controlled movements makes it a good choice for those with asthma. There is no competition or pressure to “keep pace” and your intensity can be increased over time as your body adapts to the exercises.
Pro Tip: Enroll with a reputable trainer so you can get the basics right. This will help so that you can practice on your own, at home, at your own pace.
2. Swimming: Make a splash
Bring out your swimsuit and hit the pool as studies have shown that swimming could have a beneficial effect on lung function. Swimming helps develop healthy breathing practices.
Pro Tips: Make sure you invest in a waterproof asthma inhaler case and carry your inhaler with you during your swim. Start your training gently, and make sure you check with your doctor first.
3. e-Biking: Risk-free pedal pushing
Can’t join a spinning class? Don’t worry, e-Biking is one of the most inclusive workout options. The feature that makes this type of activity risk-free is that riders can switch to pedal assist or power assist any time they feel tired. From cargo bikes to city and commuter bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, folding bikes, and even beach cruisers, e-Biking is a new aerobic sport that is low-intensity and low-impact. Not only is it a great option for asthmatic patients, it’s safer than a traditional cycle, although it does require proper training to use.
Pro Tip: Choose your e-Bike by the type of assist and how fast the motor will propel you.
4. Rowing: gROWing the distance
Rowing is a secure, low-impact workout for every part of your body, especially for those who want to exercise at their own pace. Since this cardiovascular exercise has a high impact on your heart and low impact on your joints, rowing can be performed every day of the week. Rowing machines are available in most gyms, but if you prefer to work out at home, a rowing machine may be bought for prices ranging between $200 to $2,000. Different models of rowing machines use different technology to create resistance, so be sure to try out machines first to select the one which is most comfortable for you.
Pro Tip: Most rowing machines have built-in games on the Performance Monitor like Fish Game, Target Training and Biathlon. Play them to learn how to control your intensity and up your rowing game.
5. Volleyball: Have a smashing time
If team sports get your adrenaline going, and you want to unleash your competitive streak, try volleyball. Since these games have short bursts of exercise, and plenty of down time, it’s a splendid choice to get your blood pumping. Additionally, since serving, assisting, and striking don't involve too much movement, asthmatics can enjoy this team sport.
Pro Tip: Make sure your teammates know you are asthmatic so they know you may need to take recovery breaks during rotation.
6. Badminton: Shuttle and shuffle your way to fitness
A sport that uses reflexes, wrist movements and rallies, badminton has a much lower intensity, compared to other racquet sports like tennis and squash. Plus it’s played indoors! Which means less allergens and pollen for asthmatics. Best of all, there are no time restrictions, so players can control the pace of the game.
Pro Tip: Play doubles so that you don’t have to cover as much ground.
7. Jump Rope: Do not skip this one
Jump rope, also known as skipping, is the holy grail of cardiovascular exercise. One of the most versatile exercise tools, this one’s cheap, fun, and can fit in your pocket! You can jump anywhere - under the open sky or in your living room. Start slow, and challenge yourself each day. Give yourself targets of 150 skips a day or even time-based targets. Start small, and even 5 minutes is an acceptable start. Once you have gained stamina, you can try rope tricks to make the workout more stimulating.
Pro Tip: If you think you are not coordinated enough to skip over a rope, start off with calf raises to build coordination.
8. Strength Training: Weight and watch
The anaerobic nature of weight training, along with the start-stop momentum, makes weight training a suitable choice for those with breathing problems. Start off with lighter weights (5 lbs - 10 lbs), add more number of repetitions, and take extended amounts of recovery time between sets. To ensure full body benefits, schedule your training to include upper body, lower body, and cardio.
Pro Tip: If you don't want to go to a gym, you can workout at home with your own set of weights; you can create your own weights with filled water bottles and/or canned goods from your pantry. There are numerous free strength training apps to get you started on your weight training journey.
9. Yoga: Put on those yoga pants
A combination of breathing exercises (pranayama), postures (asanas), and meditation (dhyana), through the practice of yoga, is a good way to gently exercise your lungs. As a holistic therapy, yoga potentially relieves both the physical and psychological suffering of people globally, especially those suffering from chronic ailments. Not only will certain yoga postures help expand the chest and increase breath, you’ll also feel relaxed. This is an incredible low-impact exercise to not only improve respiratory movement but also promote physical and mental stability. Look online for videos by certified yoga practitioners and learn the sun salutation (suryanamaskar) to kickstart your yoga journey.
Pro Tip: A good place to practice your breathing exercises (pranayama) is among green, living plants, either outside or at home.
10. Walking: Take it in stride
Walking, either indoors on the treadmill or outdoors among nature, is a form of exercise that is gentle on the body. Try to walk three times a week for 30 minutes, maintaining a moderate, brisk pace. From warming up, to cooling down, you will find this activity enjoyable. In case it begins to feel mundane or boring, join a walking group or walk with a friend. You should be able to carry a natural conversation to know you are walking a healthy pace. Let your walking partner know your asthma action plan in case your symptoms flare up.
Pro Tip: Download a walking trail app, which will give you trail guides and navigation aids, and discover your neighborhood again!