As a runner with asthma, I was always frustrated with the lack of information available on how to run with my disease. The internet has plenty of health and training articles for those who want to become runners, but there isn’t much written for those of us who already enjoy running and happen to have asthma as well. Suppose you’re a runner and asthmatic like me, then this article is for you. I will tell you everything I know about how to run with asthma– from my own personal experiences through research and interviews – so that we can all feel more inspired to get out there and run!
- Asthma Symptoms post-run
- How Running Benefits Asthma?
- How does Asthma Affect The Airways
- 15 Tips for how to run with asthma
- 1. Run in the later part of morning
- 2. Increase your oxygen uptake
- 3. Improve your lung function
- 4. Avoid high pollen counts
- 5. Incorporating Supplements
- 6. Avoid dairy products
- 7. Do light aerobic exercises
- 8. Take extra precautions
- 9. Carry your rescue inhaler
- 10. Supervise food intake
- 11. Avoid high pollen counts
- 12. Always stay in consult with your doctor
- 13. Stay hydrated
- 14. Stretching does help
- 15. Consider cooling down before taking an albuterol puff
- How to control your breathing while running with asthma?
- Running in the morning is better than at night
- How to run with asthma in cold weather?
- Running In Cold Weather:
- Running At Night:
- Can you run a marathon with asthma?
Asthma Symptoms post-run
After a hard workout race, many runners experience shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and sometimes coughing. For people living with asthma, these are familiar feelings that can have a variety of causes.
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is known to occur in approximately 80% of asthmatics at some point in their lives. EIB typically begins around 6 years after the onset of asthma symptoms but may happen earlier or later depending on what stage your asthma is at. Symptoms are also usually worse during periods when your asthma is flaring up more severely, so if you’re experiencing more frequent attacks, your EIB will likely be triggered while running as well.
Several factors can trigger EIB, including cold air temperatures, high pollen counts, air pollution, and sometimes even fatigue. According to studies by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), EIB is most prevalent in those who exercise within 2 hours of waking up or at night when pollen levels are higher.
How To Run With Asthma: What causes EIB?
During exercise, your lungs naturally expand and contract more forcefully as you breathe heavily. This increased respiratory rate causes an abrupt change in pressure that may cause the muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes to constrict, making it harder for you to breathe. The narrowing of these muscles makes it difficult for people living with asthma-like me to pull enough air into our lungs during activities like running.
How Running Benefits Asthma?
Running is a proven method for controlling and preventing asthma symptoms. Running can help clear up your lungs and keep them in shape, and its benefits go much deeper than what you see on the outside.
Studies have shown that running can actually reduce the frequency of asthma attacks in some individuals, which would be especially helpful when managing chronic conditions like mine. For people who experience exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, running can prove to be the perfect solution.
The first step for those who cannot run due to asthma is usually securing a respiratory therapist. These experts can help patients devise personalized exercise plans to begin incorporating running bronchoconstriction; running provides an outlet that allows them to continue getting exercise without exacerbating their allergies or asthma symptoms.
How does Asthma Affect The Airways
The airways are the passages through which air travels to and from your lungs. These are also called the bronchial tubes. These tubes can become swollen and inflamed due to an allergic reaction or other factors affecting the immune system when you have asthma. This inflammation of the airways is what causes symptoms of asthma, such as coughing or wheezing.
Symptoms of asthma usually happen when the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed or irritated by something that triggers an allergic reaction in some individuals. These triggers vary depending on each person’s unique sensitivities, but common ones include allergens, pollutants, cold air, exercise, infection, allergies, stressful events, and changes in the weather.
When inflammation occurs in these airways, the muscles in and around them can react in a way that makes breathing more difficult. This reaction is known as bronchospasm, and it affects whether or not enough air gets into your lungs when you breathe. Those with asthma may feel tightness in their chest, shortness of breath, or coughing when they have an attack.
15 Tips for how to run with asthma
-If you have a chronic condition such as asthma, it may be best to see your doctor or a respiratory therapist before planning your running schedule. They can work with you on a personalized exercise plan that will maximize the benefits of running while minimizing any harm.
1. Run in the later part of morning
If you’ve been diagnosed with an inhaler containing a bronchodilator, it may be best not to run within two hours of waking up in the morning or night when pollen levels are higher.
2. Increase your oxygen uptake
Elevate your heart rate slowly and gradually when starting a new exercise routine, and make sure you’re listening to your body and keeping tabs on your breathing. Breathlessness during activities like running is a sign that you may be overdoing it.
3. Improve your lung function
When you’re running, focus on inhaling and exhaling through your nose instead of your mouth because this helps to warm and filter the air before it gets to your lungs. This will help prevent irritation and inflammation in the bronchial tubes.
4. Avoid high pollen counts
It’s best to avoid exercising outside when pollen or mold counts are high, including when it’s windy, dusty, or freezing. These factors can make asthma symptoms worse. High humidity may also trigger an asthma attack for some individuals, so plan workouts accordingly if the weather forecast is bad.
5. Incorporating Supplements
Check with your doctor before incorporating supplements like bromelain or vitamin C into your exercise routine because they could worsen asthma symptoms.
6. Avoid dairy products
Don’t eat or drink dairy products an hour before working out because the allergens in these foods could trigger inflammation in your system and worsen asthma symptoms. It’s best to wait at least three hours after eating dairy before exercising because it takes how long food particles to leave your stomach completely.
7. Do light aerobic exercises
If you can, try doing some light aerobic exercises like walking or biking two to four times a week if you’re unable to run due to asthma. These activities are less strenuous on your body than running but still provide many of the same benefits. -Stop exercising if you experience shortness of breath or wheezing, especially if these symptoms don’t go away with over-the-counter medications like albuterol.
8. Take extra precautions
If you have asthma, talk with your doctor about wearing a medical ID bracelet that specifies your condition. This will help first responders determine whether or not they need treatment during an emergency.
9. Carry your rescue inhaler
It’s important to make sure you always carry your inhaler with you on runs, especially on days when pollen counts are high, which is usually more often in the spring and summer months. This way, if breathing difficulties arise at any point while exercising, it’s possible for you to reach for your medication before symptoms worsen.
10. Supervise food intake
If allergies are causing asthma flare-ups that affect your running ability, try eating fewer dairy products or limiting yourself to small portions of cheese per day if they’re noticeable triggers. A food diary may help determine what types of foods are contributing to your breathing difficulties.
11. Avoid high pollen counts
Stay on grassy areas where the pollen count is usually lowest when running outside, especially when allergies affect your breathing patterns. When exercising indoors, opt for a treadmill rather than a track or other open area because this way, you’ll be able to control the temperature and humidity levels of your workout space.
12. Always stay in consult with your doctor
-If you’re having difficulty breathing while running regardless of allergy season, it’s best to speak with your doctor about the possibility that asthma is worsening due to another condition. Sometimes asthma can actually worsen despite inhaler use if another health issue such as heart disease is present. -A healthy diet plan can help reduce inflammation throughout your body and minimize asthma symptoms. Eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains is always a good idea for people with asthma.
13. Stay hydrated
When exercising, be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your session because staying hydrated will help keep your airways well lubricated. Not many runners need to worry about drinking too much water while working out because the body has some natural mechanisms preventing hyponatremia (excessive fluid intake).
However, this could become an issue if you’re running long distances in hot weather conditions while also taking diuretics like coffee or some cold medicines, which can cause excessive urination.
14. Stretching does help
Don’t forget to stretch before and after running sessions regardless of how fit you are. Stretching your leg muscles will help prevent injury during your workout, while stretching afterward can ease any discomfort you feel.
15. Consider cooling down before taking an albuterol puff
If you have asthma, consider cooling down before taking an albuterol puff to see if this helps reduce the severity of your symptoms after exercise. Stopping for a few minutes before adding medication into your system may be all it takes to ensure these drugs are effective without causing additional issues.
Running is difficult enough for people who have asthma, but it’s possible to avoid hyperventilating or wheezing while exercising with proper preparation and planning. As long as you stay hydrated and cool-headed throughout your run, there should not be too many problems breathing-wise.
How to control your breathing while running with asthma?
As someone with asthma, exercise is always a good way to get in some daily activity. However, when exercise leads to trouble breathing, it can make it difficult to continue. Your doctor might tell you that certain medications are needed when this happens, but there are also things you can do before you reach the point of needing medication.
If you have asthma, you can do many things to control your breathing while running, but here are just a few. First of all, always carry an inhaler with you on runs so that if breathing difficulties arise at any point while exercising, it’s possible for you to reach for your medication before symptoms worsen.
Another tip is to stay off grassy areas when pollen counts are high, which can exacerbate asthma. If you’re running inside, keep the temperature and humidity at optimal levels to help with your breathing.
You should also consider changing your diet if your doctor tells you that certain foods and drinks trigger asthma symptoms when exercising. Keeping a food diary may help determine what types of things–such as dairy, wheat, caffeine, or spicy foods–are causing problems. Keep in mind that when you feel like your breathing is limited because it’s difficult to breathe rhythmically or take deep breaths when running, things will not get better until you have medication available.
Diaphragmatic breathing vs Buteyko breathing
I recommend trying the Buteyko method of diaphragmatic breathing. This type of breathing is where you take measured breaths to maintain a steady oxygen intake. The Buteyko method also teaches people how to control their breathing, which I think would be very helpful for you.
Running in the morning is better than at night
When you run in the morning, fewer people are on the roads, which means you can breathe easier. Running when it is dark out usually means more cars on the road, and cars mean pollution. When it’s 6 am – 6 pm (during rush hour), traffic accounts for about 60% of carbon dioxide pollution, so I recommend you definitely run before 6 pm if possible.
How to run with asthma in cold weather?
In cold weather, it is important to bundle up before getting outside. The cool, dry winter air can challenge those with asthma or another respiratory issue, those vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, and anyone susceptible to airway inflammation. Be mindful of the environment and dress appropriately.
Keeping active is key not only for people without respiratory issues but also for those with them. We all need activity to keep our lungs and heart-healthy, and running should be an accessible form of exercise! When you run, your inhalations increase, which helps open your airways and promote airflow while you’re exhaling, which clears mucus from your throat. All these things can be difficult when you have asthma, so having a breathing routine can be very helpful to do as you run.
-When you feel your lungs are tightening as you run, slow down and take long deep breaths as you walk. This will help keep the mucus out of your lungs and keep them clear.
-As you continue running, try to maintain that pace and gradually increase it if possible after walking until your lungs feel tight again, then slow down once more for 3-5 minutes before trying again (this is where practicing and relaxing come in!).
-If none of this works, walk until your episode subsides and then start running again at a slower pace at first until it feels fine again. Keep running at this relaxed pace until breathing becomes easier, and then gradually speed up as usual.
-I would recommend finding a hill to run on too! Running uphill will help your heart rate increase, making it easier for you to become winded. This will give you some valuable practice at increasing your heart rate without overworking yourself, which is very good for asthma patients as working out too hard can trigger an episode and cause injury.
Running In Cold Weather:
-Wear a scarf around your mouth that covers from the bottom of your nose to about 2/3 of the way down your neck. It will cover the skin that tends to wrinkle during inhalation and exhalation so that the air only flows through the running scarf asthma and not around or under it (which will make inhalations less effective). -If you can’t run with a scarf, try breathing through your nose if possible. Running in the cold reduces the amount of mucus that flows out of your nose, so it is better to breathe ONLY through your mouth, which has an increased chance of getting dry and irritating your throat. -Wear at least two layers on your head to keep heat in. Covering your face will decrease heat loss by 15% total because you’re warming up the air before it reaches your lungs!
Running At Night:
-Take extra precautions when running at night as there are more cars on the road than during the day, making pollution much higher. If you know traffic will be heavy (rush hour), switch to running earlier in the day if possible. If you cannot switch, try to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose to flow more air around than under/through you (especially if you are only breathing through your mouth).
Running at night also means fewer cars will be around, which makes it easier on your lungs! Still wear a scarf, though, just in case, and dress warmly enough that you don’t have to worry about how cold it is outside.
Can you run a marathon with asthma?
As anyone who has asthma knows, training for something like a half marathon can be very hard when managing symptoms day in and day out. I would recommend talking to your doctor before deciding whether or not running long distances is best for you with asthma. But it is definitely possible if you have the right motivation!