Will exercise make my asthma better or worse?

Geoffrey Chupp, M.D., is an associate professor of pulmonary and critical care at Yale School of Medicine, and a leading practitioner of bronchial thermoplasty, a non-drug procedure for adults with severe asthma that is not well-controlled with inhaled medications. Dr. Chupp writes: 

“Regular exercise is critically important to a healthy lifestyle, especially in individuals with chronic inflammatory diseases of the airways such as asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). Exercise recruits the ventilation of areas of the lung that are not utilized during sedentary activities and causes the airways to dilate, enhancing lung health in all individuals.

“One of the goals of asthma management is for patients to have a normal lifestyle, including the ability to exercise without difficulty.  Since many patients with asthma have symptoms during and after exercise (cough, shortness of breath) it is recommended that patients take their rescue inhaler approximately 20 minutes before exercising. This allows the rescue medication to reach its maximal effect in preventing airway constriction prior to the onset of exercise.

“This is adequate treatment for nearly all individuals with asthma, including athletes who compete in the Olympics in aerobic sports such as swimming and long distance running.

“The Yale Center for Asthma and Airway Diseases recommends that all patients with asthma exercise regularly and use their rescue inhaler prior to exercise.  If symptoms persist while with this regimen, a visit to your physician is warranted to consider additional treatments or alternative explanations for exercise-induced symptoms.”

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