Ahhhh, spring…the warmer weather, the grass is greener, the flowers are blooming, the pollen count is climbing…wait, what?
Are you skipping outdoor exercise during allergy season? If you have allergies and/or asthma, you might feel like outdoor exercise is more harmful than helpful for your health. Exercise is supposed to make you feel good, but if a quick jog, bike ride, walk or hike leaves you wheezing, sneezing, and feeling miserable for hours afterwards, how healthy can it be? Good news, people with allergies and asthma should be able to exercise outdoors, just like anyone else. As long as they’re getting treatment and taking precautions, they really shouldn’t have to restrict their outdoor activity very much. The key to exercising outdoors with allergies is to be prepared. Here’s a list of things that anyone who suffers with allergies should know:
- Although they may vary by a few days from year to year, pollen seasons are predictable. So, if you know that you’re allergic to ragweed, oak, or other allergens, find out when that season starts in your area; once you know, you can prepare. Information about your local pollen level is available on the internet or in your local paper. You can start taking your medicine before the pollen flies and avoid being outside during the worst days or times.
- According to many experts, the time of day you choose for outdoor exercise matters. In general, pollen counts are highest on warm and breezy mornings and low on cool and rainy days. Most pollens reach peak levels around noon or early afternoon, so if possible, exercise in the morning or late in the evening. However, during pollen season, no matter what time of day, the count is never zero so be cautious.
- You should also pay attention to the levels of ozone since they’re common irritants for people with allergies as well. Exhaust from cars and trucks can also cause problems for people with allergies, especially if you live in a city or exercise along a busy road, so try to run in a park or suburban area.
- If the pollen count or pollution levels are high, skip your usual jog or bike ride and choose a less intense form of exercise. The more stressful the exercise, the faster you breathe and the more allergens and irritants you inhale. So instead, do a slow walk, stretching exercises, yoga or weight training. Any of them will give you a good workout with less chance of increasing your risk of allergy symptoms.
- To block pollen and other irritants from getting into your system during outdoor exercise, some people exercise with a mask or bandanna over their nose and mouth. This may not be the most “fashionable” workout attire but it will allow you to get out and enjoy the pretty weather without paying the consequences later.
- During pollen season, your clothing and hair will become covered with pollen. When you get home, it’s not a bad idea to immediately change your clothes and toss them in the laundry. Also, taking a shower to rinse off any allergens left on your skin and hair is a good idea as well. This is especially important before you go to bed because otherwise, you transfer that pollen onto your pillow where it can linger for nights to come.
- Controlling your exposure to allergens during outdoor exercise can help, but it might not be enough to prevent allergy symptoms. For many people with allergies, prevention goes hand in hand with medicine. However, to make sure you get the most benefit from your allergy medicine, be sure to ask your doctor how you should use it before exercising outdoors. For instance, you should probably take antihistamines and allergy treatments at least an hour before you start working out. Nasal steroid sprays may need even longer — about a day — before they fully take effect. Your doctor will likely recommend that you take your medicine daily for the duration of the allergy season for it to be the most effective.
- Honey has been said to be a good “natural” alternative medicine to help aid in allergies as well, but it must be harvested from your local area to reap any benefits – just any honey off the grocery store shelf will not provide any relief.
- Finally, most of the time, exercising outdoors should be okay, but sometimes, when pollen counts or ozone levels are really high, exercising indoors can be a good temporary solution.
The important thing is not to limit your life because of allergy symptoms. Too many people allow their allergies to control their lives. They used to love taking hikes, run/walk, and golf with friends or play tag with their kids in the yard, but now they sit inside homebound by their allergies. Don’t suffer with allergy symptoms – if these tips don’t help and allergies are keeping you from enjoying your outdoor life, see an allergist, get treatment and get outside!
Bodyrich Fitness Company
Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutritionist