Asthma, Exercise and Aging

Savannah Allergy Associates, P.C.
5400 Waters Avenue
Savannah, GA 31404
(912) 355-5410
Fax: (912) 354-0466

Office Hours:
Mon 8:00AM-5:00 PM
Tue 8:30 AM-5:00 PM Wed 8:00 AM-5:00 PM
Thu 8:00 AM-5:00 PM Fri 8:30 AM-3:30 PM
Affiliated Hospitals:
Candler Hospital, Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital

Statesboro Office
4 Bulloch Street
Statesboro, GA 30458
(912) 355-5410
Office Hours:
Tuesday 7:45 AM-3:30 PM
Richmond Hill Office
9976 Ford Avenue
Richmond Hill, GA 31324
(912) 355-5410
Office Hours:
Friday 7:45 AM-1:30 PM

Asthma, Exercise and Aging
Adapted from the article "Staying Healthy & Fit as You Age: by Suzanne Rutkowski  in the May/June 2004 issue of Asthma Magazine, a publication of the AAAAI. 

                How people age is greatly influenced by their lifestyle decisions.  One of the factors that contributes to successful aging is being physically active.  Regular exercise is important because it can help prevent diseases, improve the physical condition and overall quality of life for those who already have diseases, prevent falls, improve one’s quality of sleep, and even help reduce cognitive decline.  The onset of physical limitations and the loss of independence that so often accompany our later years can be delayed or avoided altogether with the help of regular exercise.
                Many people with asthma, especially older adults, tend to exercise far less than they should.  Many, in fact, deliberately avoid exercise because exercise triggers their asthma symptoms.  Asthma may also make physical exertion difficult.  Years ago, doctors told people with asthma that they shouldn’t exercise, and this myth still lingers.  But doctors now know that exercise has great benefits for people with asthma, and there are effective medications that can help them exercise safely and comfortably. 
                When a person is physically fit, his heart and lungs don’t have to work as hard.  As the lungs become stronger with regular exertion, stamina improves and lung function can improve as well.  Regular exercise can help a person maintain a physical condition in which asthma symptoms are less likely to interfere with daily activities and quality of life.  Older adults with asthma, when physically fit, gain all the benefits that exercise provides for general health and well-being, as well as the potential for improved respiratory health.
                Although exercise is a key factor in remaining healthy and independent in one’s later years, as many as 75% of older Americans are not active enough to achieve these benefits.  Regular exercise can help prevent diseases such as coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  In addition, without regular exercise, muscle strength declines by 15% every 10 years after the age of 50, and this increases to 30% after the age of 70.  Resistance training, using different muscles groups to lift weights, can help prevent this deterioration.  Furthermore, even after such a loss, beginning an exercise program can result in significant strength gains in older individuals.  Strength is extremely important to daily function and quality of life.  It can be the difference between being bedridden and leading an active and productive life!

Starting an Exercise Plan for Lung Health

                If you have asthma, exercise is extremely important—not something you should avoid or fear.  This is true for people of all ages, including older adults.  According to Mark Morris, M.D. of the Division of Allergy at University of Michigan Health System, “exercising can help improve heart and lung function.  It can also reduce your need for medication and your risk of hospitalization.  Building up lung endurance has the potential to improve lung and cardiac function in those who are overweight.”  Many adults with asthma who are physically fit are less affected by their asthma and feel better.
                Adults with asthma who are thinking of starting an exercise plan should follow a few simple precautions.

ü       Since vigorous exercise can trigger asthma symptoms, be sure to discuss your exercise plan with your doctor before you start.  He or she may want to adjust your medication or may suggest the sort of activity that would be best for you.

ü       Monitor your peak flow readings before, during, and after exercise and note any changes in breathing patterns that could signal the onset of asthma symptoms

ü       Choose an exercise program with stop-and-go activity that includes a resting period such as golf, bowling, or doubles tennis.  Swimming, water aerobics, and walking are also good choices as they can be done at your own pace.  Yoga classes promote stretching, strength, flexibility, and stress reduction.

ü       Be aware of your asthma triggers.  If you have allergies or find that pollution in your area is high, try doing your walking indoors on a treadmill.  If you will be doing outdoor activity during cold weather, be sure to dress warmly and cover your nose and mouth with a scarf in order to warm the air you breathe.  Adequate stretching and warm-up can also reduce the likelihood of an attack.

ü       Breathe through your nose to filter air and keep it at the proper temperature and humidity

ü       When exercising be aware of your breathing and heart rate and respond quickly to any asthmatic symptoms by taking a rest and following your asthma action plan.

 Having asthma should not keep your from staying fit and vital as you age.  Remember—exercise is beneficial for people with asthma when done under the guidance of a health care provider.  Let your asthma be an inspiration rather than a barrier to including regular exercise in your life.