Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways associated with airway narrowing and obstruction. It is commonly provoked by triggers including allergens (e.g. pollen, dust, animal fur), pollution (e.g. car fumes, fumes from industrial waste), exercise or stress. During an asthma episode, the airways become hyper-responsive, leading to narrowing of the airways and obstruction of airflow. This causes symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. Asthma symptoms can be reversed either spontaneously or with medication
The 3 main factors that cause the airways to narrow are:
1. Swelling of the inside lining of the airways
2. Increased mucus production combined with products of inflammation (e.g. histamine)
3. Tightening of the muscle around the airways (bronchoconstriction)
Asthma is primarily managed through an “Asthma Action Plan” developed by the patient’s G.P. The Asthma Action plan is a written set of instructions developed for each asthma patient outlining medication requirements, methods for recognising worsening asthma symptoms, and what to do in the event of an attack.
There are 3 main types of Asthma medications used:
Controllers: usually taken daily in an effort to reduce the inflammatory processes associated with asthma
Relievers: effective in relieving airway narrowing; should be inhaled only when needed and in the lowest dose necessary.
Preventers: may also be used daily to reduce both symptoms and asthma attacks. Preventers can be particularly effective in reducing exercise-induced airway narrowing in most patients.
For people with well-controlled Asthma (i.e. minimal symptoms or flare ups) exercise is a safe and effective way to improve aerobic fitness and reduce the likelihood of an exercise-induced attack. By using pre-exercise medication, most people with asthma can participate in physical activity at a similar level to people without asthma. A specific benefit of a physical training program is that it allows people with Asthma to exercise with less bronchoconstriction at the same exercise intensity, although it does not abolish or reduce airway hyper-responsiveness.
The role of exercise is to assist people with Asthma to lead as normal a physical lifestyle as possible, including participation in sports. Regular exercise should be part of the lifestyle of all humans to maintain health and fitness. A major benefit of regular exercise for asthmatics is improved aerobic fitness (i.e. VO2max). This means that a given level of exercise can be carried out at a reduced percentage of his or her VO2 max, so providing a greater exercise threshold before exercise induced Asthma appears. Psychological benefits ensue and many asthmatics have become elite athletes, and world and Olympic champions despite some having severe asthma. Between episodes of asthma, many asthmatics sustain a healthy cardiorespiratory system that does not interfere with physical performance. If significant airways constriction occurs, exercise performance will be impaired.
If you would like more information on how to start an exercise program to manage your Asthma, it is important to see the right professional to ensure you are exercising appropriately. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist will be able to conduct appropriate exercise testing and prescribe a program tailored to your current fitness levels while taking into consideration your medical history and any physical limitations. Call Motion Health on 03 9825 2697 for further information