Tag Archives: respiratory problems

Asthma and running

I remember being in gym class or running around a lot in my early teens with friends when all of a sudden one of them would just collapse to the ground with an asthma attack. It was a very scary, though rare occurrence, and luckily no one died. Quick use of an inhaler and rest was usually all that was needed to help them. I felt lucky that I didn’t have asthma since I loved riding my bike and running whenever I could.

It was pretty obvious to us kids back then that asthmatics shouldn’t exercise(or so we thought). And yet, some of my first “long” runs(3 to 4 miles) were with a friend of mine who had asthma. I often worried he would suffer an attack on these runs(especially when he ran faster than me!), but they didn’t happen, though they did happen at other times when he wasn’t exercising. So asthma was, and in some ways still is a very perplexing disease to me.

The relationship between exercise and asthma is very complicated. There are many different types of asthma, some of which are induced by vigorous exercise like running. Exercise for asthmatics can be particularly problematic in very cold or polluted air. It is even possible that intense training can cause asthma in some individuals.

This doesn’t mean that asthmatics shouldn’t exercise, just that they should use more caution. If you have asthma consult your doctor before embarking on an intense training regimen.

With the right amount of treatment and/or training, asthmatic athletes are capable of some amazing athletic achievements. Belgian runner Stefaan Engels holds the world record for most marathons run in a year, in spite of being diagnosed with asthma as a child:

A Belgian runner has set a new world record after completing an astonishing 365 marathons in as many days.

Stefaan Engels, 49, crossed the finish line on his final race in Barcelona, Spain, after pounding the roads in several countries across Europe and North America in the last year.

Dubbed the ‘Marathon Man’, Mr Engels was diagnosed with asthma as a child and told not to sports.

The ultimate marathon man: Belgian runner breaks record with 365 in a single year.

There are also many asthmatic Olympic athletes, and apparently they are more likely to win than their non-asthmatic counterparts for some reason.

Increasingly, some medical researchers advocate using exercise as part of the treatment for asthma:

A prescription for exercise has been endorsed for all asthmatic subjects by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Thoracic Society. The allergy community has placed emphasis on medical therapy and allergen avoidance; in addition, exercise [correction] has not been formally incorporated into the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program guidelines. It is our belief that an exercise prescription should be part of the treatment for all cases of asthma. The real question is whether prolonged physical activity and, in particular, outdoor play of children plays a role in prophylaxis against persistent wheezing. If so, the decrease in physical activity might have played a major role in recent increases in asthma prevalence and severity.

Physical activity and exercise in asthma: relevance to etiology and treatment.  Lucas SR, Platts-Mills TA.

Source

University of Virginia Asthma and Allergic Diseases Center, Charlottesville, VA 22908-1355, USA.

Although I don’t have asthma, I sometimes suffer from shortness of breath when I run in polluted or cold air. Nothing serious though.

If you have asthma and you exercise, tell us about your experiences.

Can playing the didgeridoo help treat sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of very low breathing during sleep. Even if a person gets enough sleep, sleep apnea can negatively effect the quality of sleep. A person with this condition will very often feel unrefreshed upon waking in the morning.

Sleep apnea is more common in overweight people, but anyone can have this condition. There are many ways to treat it, but among the more unconventional is the didgeridoo. The didgeridoo is a wind instrument from Australia, invented by the aboriginal Australians over a thousand years ago. You will often hear the didgeridoo playing in movies or documentaries that feature the Australian outback.

According to the British Medical Journal(2006) in Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomised controlled trial:

CONCLUSION:

Regular didgeridoo playing is an effective treatment alternative well accepted by patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.

Fascinating how this ancient flute-like instrument may help sleep apnea patients. It seems that to play the didgeridoo requires blowing into the instrument in a manner that is different from blowing into other wind instruments, and this may strengthen the muscles used for breathing. However, the evidence is preliminary and this kind of study has inherent flaws, the most obvious being “what kind of control group do we use?”. A control group of flute-players? A control group of people playing defective didgeridoos?

Another thing I would like to know is if a person with sleep apnea is already doing vigorous exercise on a regular basis, does the didgeridoo provide additional benefits on top of the respiratory benefits from exercise? After all, exercise shows some efficacy for treating sleep apnea as well, according to Sleep. 2011 Dec 1, The effect of exercise training on obstructive sleep apnea and sleep quality: a randomized controlled trial.

Still, even if playing the didgeridoo doesn’t help with sleep apnea, learning to play a new instrument can be a very rewarding experience. If you are planning a trip to Australia, you may even impress the natives.

Old Man Winter versus the joggler part III

Old Man Winter is now really really here. Not a brief cameo. Not a brief, uneventful visit. He is actually here, and He is here to stay with us for a little while, and I am having a fantastic time joggling in it. My earlier experiences about joggling in winter weather wasn’t about the real winter but only a foretaste of it. Now it is the real thing, with snow and ice blanketing the ground, below freezing temperatures and harsh, angry winds that present a unique set of challenges to outdoor exercise. These challenges are very far from insurmountable, so this kind of weather is not a good excuse to stay indoors. He may have a bad temper at times, but make your peace with Old Man Winter to stay fit.

A hat, a few good layers and sweat pants are all you need to stay warm if you are active and the weather is dry. However, when it comes to joggling, finding the right glove can be tricky. They need to be dexterous, and keep you warm at the same time. So they can’t be too big and fluffy. It also helps if they can quantum-teleport themselves to your location if you forget them at home, but they don’t make gloves like this yet(unlike my winter hat).

They also need to be moisture-resistant, for when/if you drop balls in the snow or if you joggle when its snowing(I know none of the jogglers reading this ever drop balls, but just in case). My old work/hiking gloves are all but useless in this weather, which I found out a few days ago while joggling in the evening through a wooded area in the snow. So I bought some new gloves from the local sporting goods store for $16.00.
Wellslamont

The new gloves I got are Wells Lamont and are partially made from Thinsulate. The palm is 60% nylon, 40% polyurethane, while the back is 96% polyester and 4% spandex. gloves2The lining is 100% polyester and the insulation is 100% Thinsulate(100% polyester). Although they will take some getting used to, I have no major issues with them since I didn’t drop the balls very often when I joggled today. The biggest problem is that the middle palm area is a little baggy which may be responsible for the occasional awkward throw and some of the drops. The ice was also responsible for a few drops. They are comfortable, they fit nice and snug, and they are dexterous. They kept my hands warm and dry, even after joggling in them for an hour and after picking up balls from the snow. It was in the upper 20s while I joggled and I didn’t feel it. I think joggling keeps me warmer than regular running. I believe these gloves would be good for a variety of outdoor activities in the winter, but I wouldn’t use them for polar bear wrestling.

It goes without saying that the cold, dry air is also no friend to our lungs, though not as devilish as tobacco smoke. It is the dryness that is more of a problem than the coldness, since cold air won’t freeze our lungs, not even at some of the coldest temperatures on the earth. Our lungs function better when there is some moisture in the air, so dry air can be irritating and inflammatory – even warm, dry air. People with asthma or other respiratory problems may be better off taking it easy in this kind of weather. But don’t avoid cold air if you think it will cause the common cold; I’m sure all my readers know this, but spread the word.

I never run or joggle with a scarf or mask on, since I think it would interfere with my breathing and too much moisture will collect on it from my breathing and runny nose. I think it is only a matter of getting used to the cold, dry air.

I won’t let this cold weather keep me inside, and neither should you.