Olympians prove there’s life after asthma
3rd September 2012
Many would assume that after being diagnosed with asthma, you would not be able to enjoy exercise or sport to the extent that non asthma sufferers do. However whilst it is true that exercise is a trigger for asthma sufferers, does that have to mean an end to sporting activities for asthma sufferers and does it have to spell the end of any sporting hopes and dreams they may have. Well not according to our Olympians who achieved so much success at the London 2012 Olympics. Bradley Wiggins, 2012 tour de France winner and Olympic gold medalist said, “It does sound quite bad if you are diagnosed with asthma and your natural instinct is to think that's it. But there is better medication available now and I am an Olympic champion, the evidence is out there that you can succeed.” That view was echoed by British marathon runner, Paula Radcliffe, who said, “I don't really think asthma has affected my career, if anything it's made me more determined to be successful and reach my maximum potential. If you learn to manage your asthma and take the correct medication, there's no reason why you shouldn't be the best.” Another Olympian who didn’t let asthma hold her back was swimmer, Karen Pickering. She said, “I was diagnosed with asthma aged seven, which was when my doctor told me that swimming would help my asthma by strengthening my lungs. Despite exercise being one of my asthma triggers, I persevered and always kept an inhaler at the end of my lane while I trained and in my tracksuit pocket as I went up for my races. I went on to compete in four consecutive Summer Olympics and won Commonwealth and World Championship gold medals.” Other athletes with asthma who took part in this year's Olympics were: Rebecca Adlington (swimmer), Laura Trott (cycling), Jo Jackson (swimmer), Jo Pavey (runner), Alex Gregory (rower), Andrew Badderley (runner), Greg Rutherford (long jump), Michael Rimmer (runner), Adam Gemili (runner), Laura Weightman (runner), Euan Burton (Judo), Pete Reed (rower), Tom James (rower), Craig Bellamy (footballer), Mhairi Spence (pentathlete), and Ashley McKenzie (judo). Further statistics from the United States Olympic Committee that back this up are that, 25% of athletes in the 2012 Team GB athletics squad have asthma. 20% of the entire British Olympic Squad at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games had asthma. Half of cross-country skiers and one quarter of aspiring Winter Olympians in general, have exercise-induced asthma. According to the charity Asthma UK, “Often people with asthma are worried about exercising, because they think it will trigger their asthma symptoms. Actually, the majority of people with asthma should be able to take part in any type of activity or exercise they enjoy, as long as their asthma is under control. By starting with gentle walking or swimming it can be possible to go on to building your stamina and achieving great sporting feats.” In fact, besides saying that asthmatics can exercise, the charity goes on to say, “Eight out of ten people with asthma aren't doing enough exercise, often because they're worried it will trigger their symptoms. But actually exercise can help your asthma, so don't let it hold you back!” They continue, “Exercise can help improve your lung capacity, which will help you to manage your asthma better when you exercise, cope better with everyday chores, worry less about your asthma and give you the confidence to manage your condition. If you're worried about starting to exercise, have a chat with your GP or asthma nurse first. They'll be able to help you find the best type of exercise for you. Get them to check that your asthma is under control.” So in conclusion asthma doesn’t have to stop asthmatics enjoying exercise or sport, as long as it is properly managed and controlled. If that’s good enough for Olympic gold medalists such as Bradley Wiggins then it certainly offers hope for the 5.4million asthma sufferers in the UK.