Enjoying Winter Sports Safely

It's that frosty time of year when many people are happily waxing their skis and digging out their winter hiking gear. Cooler weather offers a great change of pace - an opportunity to enjoy a wide range of winter activities, from ice skating in the park to tobogganing with the kids to a rousing game of touch football.

If you have asthma, dropping temperatures are no excuse to avoid physical activity. In fact, regular exercise plays an important role in managing your asthma at any time of the   year. Exercise helps brings oxygen to all parts of your body to keep it functioning more efficiently. Exercise also conditions the heart, improves lung function, and can help you reduce your asthma symptoms. All it takes is some common sense and a little preparation to enjoy vigorous winter sports and avoid an asthma attack.

Understanding Exercise-induced Asthma

Regardless of the season, people with asthma can experience symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, or chest pain, during or after exercise. And some people with asthma experience these symptoms only when they exercise. During cold weather, exercise-induced asthma (EIA) can become even more of a concern during outdoor exercise. Here's why.

EIA is usually triggered by high-intensity exercise that lasts longer than 6 minutes. It is most likely caused by a sudden change in the temperature and humidity of the air that is passing through the bronchial tubes. Normally, the air we breathe is warmed and humidified as it passes through the nose. But during strenuous activity, people tend to breathe through their mouths. In winter, breathing this way allows colder, dryer air to reach the lower airways. This, in turn, can irritate the airways and produce an asthma attack.

With proper care and treatment, you can control EIA. even during outdoor winter activities. In fact, many world-class athletes have asthma   including Susan Auch (Canadian champion speed skater), Bill Koch (the first American to win the World Cup in cross-country skiing), and Paul Bennett (football Hall of Fame inductee for the Blue Bombers). Here are some tips to help you enjoy winter sports safely.

Tips for Enjoying Winter Sports and Avoiding an Asthma Attack

  • Remember to use your medication before exercising, especially if you are prone to EIA attacks.
  • Warm up by stretching and walking for at least 10 minutes before exercising, and be sure to cool down for an appropriate amount of time after exercising. Since EIA often occurs after exercise, a cool-down period that prolongs low-intensity exertion can help prevent a post-workout attack.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • On cold days, wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth to warm the air before it enters your lungs.
  • When the weather is especially cold, choose indoor exercise. Swimming indoors is highly recommended because of the warm, moist air that surrounds the indoor pool area.
  • Don't exercise if you have a viral infection or on those days when you are experiencing a number of asthma symptoms
  • Take your rescue inhaler with you. If symptoms develop, use your inhaler and rest for a few minutes before continuing. If symptoms persist or become severe, seek medical assistance.

Exercise Is Good for You-Anytime of Year!

Regular exercise improves your body's ability to supply and use oxygen.

Exercise helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, and it's an important part of any weight management program. So get out there this winter and have some fun! And remember, before starting any exercise program be sure to check with your healthcare team.

Ó1999 Protocol Driven Healthcare, Inc. All rights reserved.

This handout is available for your use with permission from

Program Management Protocol Driven Healthcare, Inc. www.pdhi.com


Date: 12/13/2005

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