Are you one of the estimated 300 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma? Even if you don’t have the disease, if you’re suffering from breathing problems five to 20 minutes after you exercise, you may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says EIB happens when the tubes that bring air into and out of your lungs narrow with exercise, causing symptoms of asthma.
Sound familiar? Check for symptoms (and speak to your doctor!), which may include: wheezing, tight chest, cough, shortness of breath and in some cases, chest pain. If your doctor diagnoses you with EIB, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with working out. In fact, according to the American Council on Exercise, as tolerance for physical exertion is built up over time, it is less likely that an asthmatic will experience an attack during exercise. Awesome!
A common trigger for EIB is exercising in cold weather, especially if the air is dry. Lungs like to breath in water-saturated air. If you’re planning on a cold-weather run or walk, wrap a scarf around your mouth and nose. We have our eye on the Turtle Fur Group’s fog-free Balaclava (or ski mask). It’s an advanced cold-weather breathing system that provides nose and mouth ventilation to allow for clear breathing, easy access to hydration, eliminates moisture buildup and prevents fogging of eyewear. You may look like a criminal wearing it, but your lungs will thank you!
Other triggers include air pollutants, high pollen levels and viral respiratory infections. The AAAAI says that other causes of symptoms with exercise may be that you are out of shape or have poorly controlled nasal allergies or vocal chord issues. That’s why it is very important to talk to your doctor to plan your treatment.
The level of intensity will also affect EIB. If you’re a fitness newbie, stick with low-level exercise like swimming, walking, yoga and biking. As you gain more tolerance, your chances of an attack should decrease.
So you have EIB, it’s under control and you still want to exercise. Make sure to stay hydrated! Lungs like a moist body. Prep yourself before working out with a good warmup, properly cool down afterward and take a warm bath or shower — breathing in the steam makes your lungs happy. If you have a rescue inhaler, keep it in your gym bag, just in case!
Breathing exercises: Learn more controlled breathing and you can increase your lung capacity. You will also keep your lungs and chest limber and flexible. Try Breathing Lessons, an app by LifeBreath. You'll get videos and basic cued breathing practice with user control of timing inhalations and exhalations as you work toward a 13-second exhalation and a seven-second inhalation.
Drink tea: Green or black tea contains theophylline, a chemical that helps relax the smooth muscles of the bronchial tubes. Also, try (our favorite) Yerba Mate. It helps stimulate the adrenal glands to release corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation, as well as hyperactive immune responses to irritants. It also helps relax the airways and dilate the bronchial passages, according to Herbal-list-remedies.com.