With the onset of winter and the chill in the air I find many people complain of the difficulty in breathing when exercising. This is not an unusual scenario as the air particularly in the early morning is very cold making it much more difficult for the body particularly the nasal passages and air ways to warm it up before it hits the lungs. When exercising in the cold and particularly outside the body is working harder and is in need of more oxygenation however, when the air is bitterly cold the increased breathing in and out through the mouth may cause the airways to dry and cool and the airways become somewhat restricted. Some people will certainly be more susceptible to this and it is not unusual to see people at this time of the year present with Exercise Induced Asthma.
Exercise Induced Asthma is different from Asthma in the general sense. General or typical Asthma is a condition that is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs and airways which can be triggered by pollutants, environmental factors, pollens, food etc. Exercise Induced Asthma on the other hand is still characterised by Asthma symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing and tightness in the chest however it occurs after the commencement of exercise and generally in colder weather when it is more difficult to breathe. If you find that you have a lot of difficulty in breathing whilst exercising see your Doctor who can diagnose whether it is in fact Exercise induced Asthma. This is certainly not a reason to cease exercise; however there are precautions one can take to prevent the discomfort associated with shortness of breath and restriction of the airways.
If you are diagnosed with Exercise induced Asthma, then your Doctor will advice you of preventative measures before exercise to help open up the airways. There are several medications for this along with some simple ideas that will help make your work out more enjoyable. If you are training outside then layered clothing is the smartest choice to peel off as your body warms up along with a light scarf which you can keep over your mouth and neck to help warm the air before you breathe it in. If it is too difficult to train outdoors then the gym is a better solution to at least stay out of the elements. I find that there are certain people who don’t quite fall into the category of Exercise Induced Asthma however still find the colder air difficult to breathe in. These people would still benefit from the warmer neck dress and it would be more suitable to start off a work out particularly cardiovascular work such as running, rowing etc at a very moderate pace so as to not increase oxygen uptake too high too fast. Nutrition is always an important factor in how your body performs and with restricted airways it is also a good idea to increase foods rich in Magnesium and Vitamin C which can assist in keeping your airways less restricted.