What do Paula Radcliffe, David Beckham and Justine Henin have in common? They all have asthma. In a study published in the BMJ in 2012, it was found that 21 percent of the 2004 British Olympic team were asthmatic. Many people believe that having asthma means they cannot engage in sports, but multiple studies have proven this to not be the case.
Despite popular belief, exercise is good for asthmatics and can even improve their health. In fact, it's strongly encouraged by asthma.org - a UK leading asthma charity. Three-time London marathon winner Paula Radcliffe said in an interview with the UK asthma charity:
"The message that I always try to communicate is that you should control your asthma, not let it control you."
She emphasises that warming up and stretching properly before a workout helped her control her asthma and improve her performance overall.
"I don't think asthma affected my career [...] If anything, it made me more determined to reach my potential. If you learn to manage your asthma and take the correct medication, there's no reason you shouldn't be the best."
Dr Michael Koehle, a sport physician at the University of British Columbia, explained that athletes with asthma can perform just as well as their non-asthmatic peers if they warm up before their exercise. He says:
"With a better warm-up, you can get away with fewer [medications]."
Exercising regularly can improve your lungs function which can increase your stamina, aid in weight loss, boost your immune system and make you feel better about yourself.
Before participating in a vigorous activity or sport, consult your doctor to make sure that your asthma is under control and that it is safe to do so. While you don't have to inform your teammates of your condition, it is advisable so that they can help you if you do have an attack.
Sports facilities, dance studios, gyms and adventure sports centres will have faculty who are trained to deal with a range of medical conditions, including asthma. If you suffer an attack, there will be someone there who can help you.
Tips on staying safe when exercising with Asthma
Do a proper warm up before you start exercising by stretching and lightly jogging on the spot. This will reduce the risk of suffering an asthma attack.
Take a preventer inhaler if necessary before the activity.
Ensure your reliever (blue) inhaler is close by either in your pocket or with someone you trust.
If you feel out of breath, take a break and use your inhaler if you need it.
Wear a smart watch or fitness band which monitors your heart rate.
What activities are asthma friendly?
If you are asthmatic and want to get into sports, here are the best activities for you to try:
Walking and jogging
Resistant training (Weights)
Yoga, T'ai Chi or Pilates
These activities incorporate light to moderate exercise with intermittent breaks for time to rest. Contact your local gym or sports centre to see what sports they cater for.
If your asthma is well controlled, you could push yourself with some adventure sports. These can include abseiling, bungee jumping, parachuting, orienteering and mountain biking.
Don't let your asthma get in the way of playing a sport you enjoy - these famous athletes certainly didn't. So long as your asthma is under control, and you take the appropriate steps to ensure you are prepared in the case you have an asthma attack, you should be able to live an active lifestyle.