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Asthma and VO2 Max


What is asthma and VO2 Max and how do they relate to you, your body and to your health? InShape NewsFlash columnists take a look and share their opinions on Asthma and VO2 Max.

Asthma and VO2 Max
Asthma and V02 Max

What Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author has to say about asthma and VO2 Max

When I met my husband, he had asthma. But over the years, it has virtually disappeared. So how did he do it?

Those who have asthma, characterised by episodes of breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing, know this chronic inflammatory disease is debilitating. Couple this affliction with related conditions like reflux, sinusitis and sleep apnea, and it can be deadly.

Whilst it’s not entirely understood why some individuals have asthma, and to differing degrees, it is agreed that cardiovascular exercise can assist in reducing its severity. No, you can’t always control the air you breathe. But you can control how much air capacity your lungs have known as maximal oxygen consumption or VO2 max. As such, asthma and VO2 max go hand-in-hand.

What happens when people with asthma don’t exercise?

Unfortunately, most people who have asthma avoid exercise altogether. Why? Well, asthma often brings on an attack due to exercise-induced inflammation of the bronchial tubes, making it hard to breathe. But research shows that people living with asthma who strengthen their lungs by increasing their VO2 max have much better resistance to attacks. This occurs simply because their lungs can function more efficiently.

When I first met my husband, he was using an inhaler multiple times a day. I have to admit that I soon become oblivious to that distinctive sound the inhaler makes as it injects its sometimes lifesaving dose.

How can you overcome your asthma?

Having never suffered from any breathing issues, I was perhaps not as understanding as I could have been when his asthma curtailed our activities. With a new and very active life together, he soon strived to achieve the effortless level of breathing I enjoyed. In his aim to throw away his inhaler, here’s what he did.

1. First, he avoided any asthma triggers like ‘unclean’ air environments. These included smoke-filled environments, excessive air pollution and allergens.

2. Second, he learned and regularly practised deep breathing exercises. Over time he increased his lung capacity and also used this technique to reduce inflammation when an attack begin.

3. Third, he started low-level cardio exercise by simply walking. Gradually he walked further and faster, eventually even up very steep hills.

4. Fourth, he sought out higher intensity exercises, his favourite being water aerobics. Once a gentle pastime created to keep the elderly more active, when practised in deeper water at a higher intensity it is one of the most beneficial low-impact cardiovascular activities around. Try racing someone the length of a pool holding foam dumbbells and you’ll see what I mean.

Did these four steps work? You bet they did, and that ‘puffer’ sound is now a distant memory. And whilst he still has his inhaler in case of emergency, he hasn’t used it for years.

Sigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market.

Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.


Asthma and VO2 Max improvement is possible
Breathe Easier Without Asthma and VO2 Max Improvement–Photo by Kelvin Valerio on Pexels.com

What Gary (Gaz) Wagner – Founder and Master Trainer Juggernaut Personal Training has to say about asthma and VO2 Max

VO2 max, also known as maximal oxygen uptake, is the maximum volume of oxygen used during one minute of maximal or exhaustive exercise. VO2 max is the best predictor of aerobic performance.

An article published by Leith and Bradley in the Journal of Applied Physiology states that VO2 max links to an athlete’s breathing pattern and body oxygenation at rest. Therefore, if the involuntary breathing pattern is changed, then VO2 max will change as well.

Asthma, a respiratory condition, does not necessarily decrease the athletes VO2 max. But it can severely inhibit oxygen intake, particularly during stressful activities. In doing so, asthma can also limit the amount of oxygen in the blood.

What were the study findings for asthma and VO2 max?

A study conducted in England and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine assessed the effect of endurance running training on asthmatic adults. The study recruited nine mild-to-moderate asthmatic individuals and six non-asthmatic individuals. Each person then did endurance training three times a week for consecutive weeks. They trained on treadmills using selected running speeds.

The findings of the study indicated that after five weeks of endurance training, both groups had a similar improvement of VO2 max (approximately 7 percent). But during the sub-maximal exercise, asthmatic participants demonstrated a significant reduction in the blood lactate concentrations while the non-asthmatics showed no change.

The study also showed that both groups could sustain a higher percentage of VO2 max in the two-mile time trial after the study concluded. Overall, the study found that steady endurance running was beneficial for the asthmatic participants whilst minimising undue respiratory stress.

Have other studies shown similar results with asthma and VO2 max?

In another study conducted in Glasgow, a ‘progressive incremental exercise test’ was carried out in 44 subjects with mild-to-moderate asthma and 64 subjects without asthma. Healthy subjects and habitual activity were matched to compare cardio-respiratory fitness. This activity was also used to determine the relative contribution of airflow obstruction to exercise limitation. The two groups achieved similar heart rates during exercise.

The findings revealed that asthmatics had lower maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) than the control group. Asthma and VO2 max, anaerobic threshold and oxygen pulse, were also lower in asthmatics.

In this study, asthmatic subjects significantly reduced the anaerobic threshold and oxygen pulse among participants. Researchers concluded that modified incremental aerobic activity, which controls heart rate and breath, could improve exercise for people with asthma.

How does swimming help asthma and VO2 max?

Swimming is known as a suitable health improver for asthmatics. Why? Well, it assists in the conscious control of breath, with laps stabilising an elevated heart rate. Swimming, therefore, reinforces the data realised in the studies mentioned.

Overall, an asthmatic’s VO2 max could benefit from an adequately progressed and monitored endurance training program. This approach, over time, could then reduce the effects of asthma.

Gary Wagner Ropes

As a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer for the public, corporate and sporting world, I impart a “if you want it, you can achieve it attitude” to my juggernauts. This allows me to train them to continually higher levels for their fitness, strength conditioning and fat-loss goals.

The human body has truly amazing potential for adaptation when a challenge is set before it, whether it’s an ordinary person looking to achieve the extraordinary endurance event, an executive wanting a fitter, stronger body to handle the stresses and challenges of the business world, a former non-exerciser who wants to take total health turn-around or anyone who wants unstoppable levels of fitness in a low-fat, lean, toned and healthy body. I have the means to transform you into a resilient fitness machine with an unstoppable mindset. With a better conditioned body you will be better equipped to take life’s challenges head on. Stay Strong. Train Smart, Hard and be Unstoppable with JuggernautPT.

person swimming on body of water to improve asthma and VO2 max.
Swimming Improve Asthma and VO2 Max–Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

What Phil Owens – Leading Australian Hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner has to say about asthma and VO2 Max

Asthma is a physiological response to stimuli that leads to spasms of the bronchiolar system and reduces a person’s ability to breathe correctly. There is no doubt that appropriate response management can be critical in alleviating the distress of a person living with asthma. Plus, this can have a significant impact on their ability to breathe. But is there another side to asthma?

The other side of asthma is in the triggering. So while there is absolutely no doubt that the RESPONSE is physiological, we need to ask what triggers asthma?

Environmental Stimuli and asthma

Environmental stimuli such as pollens and smoke can provoke an asthma attack. These are physical triggers. However, other factors can trigger asthma attacks. Two of these are stress and fear.

These are ‘psychological’ triggers, where nothing physical or environmental drives the asthma attack, but rather the person’s state of mind has an impact on their outcome. Stress and fear release hormones, and transmitters can set off asthma. At times, a person can then literally ‘think’ themselves into an asthma attack because of their state of mind.

Swimming and asthma

Consider how many top swimmers’ retrain’ their respiratory systems to deal with the stress of swimming and racing and ‘cure’ themselves of asthma. It is a common reason to get kids swimming – the retraining of breathing patterns under pressure leads to diminished asthma. The respiratory system ‘learns’ new and more appropriate ways to deal with stress and is strengthened physically.

However, this does not mean that environmental triggers will not still cause asthma. But, interestingly, it is possible to eliminate the psychological causes and retrain the response.

Secondary gain

Consider the other scenario, known as secondary gain. Psychologically, I can ‘induce’ asthma, or I can overcome it. I have seen people in martial arts competitions ‘decide’ that they were losing, and the response was an asthma attack.

When they were winning, where was asthma? Their asthma, psychologically, gave them a ‘free pass. It wasn’t their performance, but their asthma and VO2 max, that made them lose.

The other way that asthma plays out psychologically is that kids can learn that they gain extra attention by having an asthma attack. Everyone becomes so concerned about them when they have an asthma attack. So when they are feeling left out, what can they do to gain attention? Without thinking, they induce an asthma attack.

Asthma as a physiological response

Asthma is a natural physiological response. Anyone who has suffered from an asthma attack will know how debilitating they can be. However, if the trigger is not physical or environmental, but psychological, and people can ‘train’ themselves out of asthma, isn’t it worth considering asthma not as an illness but as more of a response? And in this case, being clear of the trigger and addressing this can be the most effective way to develop long term solutions for the sufferer.

Philip Owens is the owner and director of Reflective Resolutions and is a leading Australian hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner based in Melbourne, Australia. Using scientifically validated and pragmatic approaches, Philip is a passionate about creating lasting change in and for his clients.

Working in his clinic with individuals and also with corporate clients, Philip’s international experience, state of the art training and processes have led to successful and happy clients all over the world.  Focusing on the issues of modern life, Philip routinely works with clients presenting with anxiety, fears and phobias, addictions, traumas, weight loss, insomnia and smoking cessation.

Disclaimer: The information published in this column represents the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on InShape NewsFlash.
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14 thoughts on “Asthma and VO2 Max”

  1. I had childhood asthma. But I also grew up with 4 brothers and we chased each other around during childhood and played sports. I was a sprinter in high school, ran cross country (I was never any good and the inhaler came in handy) and became a marathoner in my 40s. I still use the inhaler on cold days to prevent post-run wheezing and I have had my share of pneumonia (because I am not nearly as bulletproof as I think). Inhaler use for asthma attacks ended during high school. My new Garmin measures VO2 max and I have to say that it has been a big surprise that a life of running translates into not only a good VO2 max, but a high score for an old guy.

  2. This really makes sense. It’s nice to find a high-quality site that isn’t rubbish.

  3. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educational and amusing. But, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

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