It’s not always fun, but I gotta say it: asthma and exercise go together.
In fact, exercising with my asthma was one of the most important steps in my journey to get off albuterol and live much better.
(Ready to learn about asthma and rowing? Jump to my results!)
(Convinced about rowing and looking for advice on how to choose the best rowing machine for you? See my 2019 Rowing Machine Guide here – and don’t worry, I cover multiple price points!)
Why People With Asthma Especially Should Exercise
Of course we all know that staying fit and active leads to major health improvements in all parts of the body, including the symptoms of asthma.
But did you know that regular, vigorous physical exercise specifically targets the symptoms of asthma?
It’s true: the National Institute of Health in the US recommends healthy adults exercise for 30 minutes 5 days per week to promote healthy lung function.
So if it’s so important to link asthma and exercise, how come when asthmatics go to the doctor to figure out how to breathe better, usually all we get is a prescription for more ventolin inhalers???
I personally have never had a doctor talk to me about exercise and my lifestyle while treating my asthma – isn’t that crazy?
Sure, albuterol/ventolin opens the airways instantly – that’s why it can be a lifesaver on many occasions. But it doesn’t prevent future asthma symptoms like exercise can.
In fact, ventolin overuse does the opposite. Very quickly, the user goes from using ventolin, to overusing ventolin, to abusing it. Before you need it, you need multiple puffs throughout the day – and night.
And overusing ventolin is damaging to your health, demoralizing and expensive. You shouldn’t need a tool to breathe!
Fortunately, we now know that staying fit is the best way to getting our lungs back to being healthy and strong. The connection between asthma and exercise and the health of our lungs is too great to ignore.
Taking care of your overall health and your lung health is really the only long term solution to asthma prevention that doesn’t involve over-relying on expensive and problematic pharmaceutical drugs like ventolin, flovent or prednisone.
So as much as I like lounging on the couch … I know that I have to get sweaty if I want to breathe better.
This might seem counter-intuitive, especially if you suffer from exercise-induced asthma. That’s why I don’t worry if I need a puff during or after my workout (although I never actually need it anymore).
Especially when I was first starting out, I removed all shame from needing to use my inhaler. This is about the long-term – and as your health improves, you will need your rescue inhaler less and less throughout the day.
But what’s the best way to combine asthma and exercise?
If you want to get started, maybe the easiest way would be to get a gym membership and let them tell you what to do.
But for me, that wasn’t really an appealing option – I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to a gym enough to have a daily impact on my asthma.
Plus, I knew I’d be wheezy when I started out … and I definitely ‘noped’ out of wanting to be that out of breath in public.
Instead, I opted for a home based solution in the form of a rowing machine.
Rowing is great because it is a total body, cardiovascular workout, as well as being easy and low impact on your joints.
You can learn more about how and why to row here.
And there are lots of great rowing machines on the market.
Ultimately, after much research and testing, I went with the Concept 2 Model D because it’s pretty much universally accepted as one of the best rowing machines available (learn more about its many awesome features here).
But don’t take my word for it – this guide to the best rowing machines can help you narrow down your best options, regardless of your current health, space or budget.
Springing for some home equipment just seemed like a good idea – especially since even the best rowing machines are actually reasonably priced, given that they offer complete workouts.
For me, doing the math, this one-time investment was still a lot cheaper than an on-going gym membership would have been in the long run.
Plus, if I invested my own money in a good machine, I knew I’d be more inclined to actually stick to my workout goals. Kind of hard to ignore my rower when it’s sitting in my office!
How I Started Using My Rowing Machine To Breathe Better
I think using the rowing machine at home was particularly beneficial for asthma and exercise, because I was able to slowly get started, at my own pace.
At the beginning I didn’t pressure myself – I just started getting on throughout the day, rowing for very short periods of time, which eventually I was able to build up.
That was SO much more appealing to me then jumping into a sweaty, public gym class that I knew would get me out of breath immediately.
I was also patient with myself. When I started, I needed to use my inhaler a bit more than I would normally have liked, but I knew I was working towards a more important goal. Don’t get upset if this happens to you.
Now, I just love my rowing machine. I’ve had it for about a year and I use it every day.
I still often row for just a few minutes of high intensity rowing – but I do that many times throughout the day, and I feel great. I’ve quickly seen the benefits in my improved lung function – with ultimately less reliance on my ventolin rescue inhalers.
Exercising is an investment in yourself and a testament to your own willingness to overcome albuterol overuse and start managing your symptoms better.
In my experience, rowing at home has worked out really well – it was the best way to combine asthma and exercise without having to purchase multiple machines to work different parts of my body.
After a year of use, I still definitely highly recommend the Concept 2 Model D. It’s built to last and a joy to hop on.
If you’re on the fence, you could probably find one a nearby gym if you’d like to give it a test run first. You won’t regret it.
But regardless of what you choose, I hope that you’ll start to link asthma and exercise in your own mind – because exercising regularly will change your life.
Please share with our community in the comments – if you have asthma, do you exercise? Any tips on how to get started or what works best for you?