Exercise-induced asthma episodes can make you want to give up on working out.
After all, how many times can you go through the frustration and terror of not being able to breathe in the middle of a run or a set before you start to see exercise itself as the problem? Maybe you just need to take it easier and understand your body’s limitations, your brain says.
But have you ever thought that it might not be you, but rather the type of workout you’re engaging in?
Lots of people who suffer through asthma attacks brought on by exercise have discovered that there’s a great way to minimize the chance of this happening and still have a great workout. How? Get in the water.
Most of us already know the benefits of water exercise for people recovering from injuries. The natural buoyancy of the water puts far less pressure on muscles, joints, and bones, making it easier to strengthen those parts of the body without fear of further damage. But according to exercise physiologist Robert Robergs, swimming is also a great exercise for asthma sufferers because “the warm, humid air [around the pool] causes less irritation to the airways.”
Here are just a few great exercises to try:
Treading. Figuratively treading water isn’t a good thing, but literally doing it is fantastic. Grab a beach ball so you’re not worried about staying afloat and tread with your legs for as long as you can. This exercise can burn the same number of calories as jogging at six miles per hour – 11 in a minute!
Zigzag running. This exercise has you running in a zigzag pattern across the pool, then turning around and plowing straight through all of those currents you just made. Doing this really works your core and tests your balance, all while putting just a minimum of pressure on joints.
Water roll. Want to work your abs, legs, back and glutes? For this exercise, you need to float on your back while hugging a beach ball to your chest, then complete a 360 degree spin, rolling your top side into the water and all the way back out again, ideally while remaining in a plank-like position throughout.
Webbed lifts. A great, fun way to work your arms in the pool is to get webbed gloves. These add an automatic resistance to every move that you make, but you can also do arm-specific exercises such as web lifts where you curl your gloved hands up, then push them back down. It’s similar to a curl you’d do with a regular weight, but this way you’re getting resistance both ways.
Noodle balance. Grab a pool noodle and head out to waist-high water, then place one foot in the center of the noodle so that you can stand one-legged in the water. This strengthens both your leg and core muscles, and can be changed up by pushing your noodled knee out to the side. Hold for about a minute in each pose, then switch to the other leg.
Beach ball tomahawk. This is a fantastic way to work your upper body and your abs. Start by floating on your stomach with a beach ball held out in front of you, then push the ball down into the
water with your arms and keep it outstretched until you can get it to touch your thighs. Then, bring it back up to the starting position and repeat.
Water lunges. You’ll want to be in relatively deep water for this one, maybe about neck high. Get into the typical lung position with one leg bent in front of you and the other straight behind you, then extend your arms in front of you at chest height. Bring your arms out to your sides, while at the same time lunging forward and bringing your back leg to the front, then returning your arms to the starting position by the time the new front leg is bent. This works your back, chest, and arms.
Just remember that too much swimming and water exercises can be problematic, too, as well as the environment in which you swim. Ideally, you don’t want to do it all the time because some of the chemicals present in pools can actually exacerbate asthma symptoms, and this is made worse if you use indoor pools or really push yourself. As always with asthma, be prepared with your inhaler!
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