Physical exercise in the asthmatic patient

Physical exercise in the asthmatic patient

Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system characterized by inflammation and reversible spasm of the bronchi.
According to the WHO, it is estimated that there are approximately 230 million patients with asthma around the world, being more frequent in children. In Mexico up to 12% of the population suffers from this disease.

The are several risk factors for developing asthma, among them are: family history, respiratory infections and frequent allergies during childhood, being born prematurely, smoking, living in highly industrialized areas, and obesity.

The most common triggers of an asthma attack are dust mites or molds, the presence of pets in the house such as dogs or cats, pollution, exercise, and cold weather.

The main mechanisms present in airflow limitation are due to a bronchial hyper-response to different stimuli of the triggering agents already mentioned, which activate an inflammatory chain, these mechanisms are the contraction of bronchial smooth muscle, thickening of the bronchial wall (due to edema) and hypersecretion of mucus in the bronchial lumen; This causes dyspnea (shortness of breath), chest tightness, cough, and wheezing.

Although exercise can cause an asthma attack, also called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, it is not contraindicated to do some physical activity. Exercising improves tolerance of ventilatory demand and increases aerobic capacity. It improves physical condition and decreases crises caused by physical exertion, as well as helping with body weight and the immune system (which is important to avoid triggers).

It is important to mention that the treatment of each person is individual and personalized depending on the stage of the disease. Therefore, their established pharmacological treatment must be adequate to control symptoms that may occur during physical activity.

Aerobic exercises are mainly recommended and when choosing sports, it is best to choose one of short duration or intensity, such as yoga, gymnastics or swimming. Swimming is one of the most recommended sports since breathing the water’s vapor in the case of heated pools helps a lot to prevent exercise-induced asthma. Likewise, it is important to mention that the weather at the time of practice is important, dry environments are contraindicated.

Sports that involve greater effort such as long runs, soccer, etc. are not ruled out for the patient, however, before starting any activity, not only should you go to the specialist for a guided treatment, you should also go to the sports medicine doctor for an exercise plan adapted to your specific needs. Among the tests that can be carried out, in addition to a complete cardiopulmonary and metabolic evaluation, are a spirometry to measure pulmonary capacities and spasm tests where the stress situation that induces bronchial spasm is simulated and counteracted in the moment.

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