Celebrity asthma sufferers
is a topic Medical Specialists® Pharmacy first reported on numerous years ago, and now long-distance runner and five-time Olympian Jo Pavey has decided to open up on her long-life experiences with the lung condition.
In 2014 the athlete become the oldest woman to win gold in the 10,000 metre race when she triumphed spectacularly at the European Championships at the ripe old age of 41, remarkably occurring a mere 10 months following the birth of her second child.
Exercise Could Help Reduce Asthma Symptoms
Even more staggering about Jo Pavey's achievement is the fact that she has battled asthma since childhood, joining an estimated 5.4 million people around the UK that suffer with a condition that causes difficulty breathing due to the airways becoming swollen or inflamed. Asthma UK say that 1 in every 12 adults has asthma, in addition to 3 children inside every school classroom.
Despite the long held belief that asthmatics should steer clear of exercise as it will make their symptoms worse, Jo Pavey wants other people in her situation to realise that contrary to belief, exercising could actually improve
“Running has really helped me to manage my asthma,” says Jo, now 43, who still needs to use a reliever inhaler before and after every race. “As an asthmatic, exercise has always made me feel so much better.”
Other Celebrity Asthma Sufferers
After all, there are numerous other celebrity asthma sufferers from the world of sport, all of whom did not allow asthma to stop them reaching the top of their profession. Those with a good memory may remember former footballing megastar David Beckham using his preventer asthma inhaler
during half-time of a LA Galaxy match in November 2009, the first time any of the general public even knew he had the condition.
In addition, other names from the world of sport reached the top of their game despite having asthma, such as Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Paula Radcliffe. All those athletes just like Jo, managed to control their asthma and become incredibly successful in their careers, and she is now reaching out to others who are in a similar situation.
“Asthma has always been part of my life,” says Jo, who was given a diagnosis at the age of three. “My dad had asthma and my younger brother is severely asthmatic so I grew up knowing how dangerous asthma can be.”
Jo recalls her brother being rushed to hospital, requiring a nebuliser, but her asthma wasn’t quite as severe as this. However, she can still remember feeling wheezy in PE lessons at school, as well as the frequent asthma attacks during the colder months of the year.
Jo Pavey's talent on the track was not realised until secondary school where she became a member of the Exeter Harriers Athletics Club in 1987, and was victorious in the English Schools 1,500 metres title at just 14-years-old.
This triumph in her teenage years would then spark the catalyst for a long athletics career. Even though many asthmatics fear over-exertion, Jo discovered that the more training she did, the better her asthma symptoms appeared to be.
“At university I wasn’t running very much and I would really struggle for breath when I was going uphill. That just doesn’t happen when I’m looking after my fitness.
“When I was a student I had an absolutely awful asthma attack and had to go home for a week or so. That attack was sparked by piles of cut grass left on the lawn close to where I was living but cold, dry air and, ironically, exercise have always been my main triggers.
“I think as an asthmatic it is very important to be aware of what might bring on an attack,” says Jo, speaking from her home in Devon, where she lives with her husband and manager Gavin, 45, and their two children Jacob, seven, and Emily, three.
“When I was younger, I once went to a training camp in Colorado in the US but it was a nightmare as the cold air really exacerbated my asthma, making it difficult to run. Now I do most of my training in South Africa as the warm climate really suits me.
”Even now she doesn’t train if it is exceptionally cold, or if she is feeling unwell. Jo takes an inhaler everywhere with her and never misses routine reviews with her local asthma nurse. “People assume that asthma and exercise don’t go together but they couldn’t be more wrong,” says Jo. “As long as the condition is well-managed and not too severe there are so many benefits to being active.”
Sonia Munde, a respiratory physiotherapist with Asthma UK, agreed with Jo Pavey's comments, adding: “Regular exercise is good for everyone but it has particular benefits for asthmatics as it improves the way your lungs work.
“Plus it keeps your weight down so it’s easier to breathe and can help support your immune system so your asthma is less likely to be triggered by coughs and colds. “It is also great for your emotional wellbeing as various studies show that if you’re stressed or depressed you’re at higher risk of asthma symptoms as a result.”
He adds that if your asthma is under control nothing is off limits. However, he stresses that for those suffering with severe asthma or those struggling with their symptoms, moderate intensive aerobic exercise such as walking, badminton, swimming or aerobics is more ideal.
Jo Pavey's Advice for Asthmatics
“As long as someone is managing their asthma well with an effective asthma plan there is no reason not to exercise,” stresses Jo, who is now contemplating returning to the track at the age of 44 to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in Australia next April.
“It’s all about being sensible and exercising safely. If you have asthma, always take an inhaler and your phone with you and perhaps buddy up with an exercise partner so you feel really safe.
“Be aware too of any possible triggers such as high pollen or cold air. Always warm up and start off with a gentle jog or run for a few minutes and then walk for a few minutes.
“Don’t try to run as hard as you can at the beginning as you have to gain confidence and stamina first. Set yourself regular fitness goals and instead of seeing your asthma as an obstacle, view it as an extra challenge.”