Milwaukee Edition

Exercise vs. Allergies

All the Right Moves

SunCity/Shutterstock.com

Seasonal allergies plague more than 26 million Americans, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, with numbers on the rise in recent years. This is due in part to a dramatic increase in the amount of airborne pollen, a possible byproduct of climate change. Environmental and lifestyle stress, inadequate nutrition and weakened immune systems are also factors, leaving many feeling too miserable to engage in physical activities.

Yet, research shows that exercise can help ease allergy symptoms and lessen severity. A survey of 2,000 allergy sufferers sponsored by the UK National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit showed those that exercised the most had the mildest symptoms.

More Exercise, Less Discomfort

Boosting heart rate through aerobic activities such as running, walking, jumping rope, treadmill routines, tennis and team sports like volleyball or basketball seems to offer anti-allergy benefits. Vitamin C can also help. Researchers from the Faculty of Sports Science at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, Thailand, found that 70 percent of participants that took a vitamin C supplement and ran for half an hour experienced decreased nasal congestion and sneezing.  

“Exercising regularly creates a cumulative effect in the body, helps speed up metabolism and improves immunity, so you could find even less allergies occurring over time,” says Stephanie Mansour, fitness expert and former allergy sufferer from Chicago. “I used to get allergy shots for a runny nose and headaches during certain times of the year, but personally transformed my allergies through expanding my lungs and chest and balancing out my nervous system.”

Exercising regularly creates a cumulative effect in the body, helps speed up metabolism and improves immunity, so you could find even less allergies occurring over time.
~Stephanie Mansour, fitness expert

The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy recommends gentler forms of exercise, and cautions against vigorous workouts such as Crossfit or long runs that can be counterproductive and exacerbate allergy flare-ups. Mansour recommends yoga, Pilates, walking or weight training—especially when congestion is a factor.

Try Some Yoga

Mansour, a certified yoga instructor, attests to the benefits of the practice. To ease the symptoms of allergies, she recommends yoga both for its physical effects and its breath benefits. “Yoga can also help bring equilibrium to the nervous system and help the body relax. When the body is in a healthy balance and relaxed, it’s more effective at warding off things like infection or allergies.”

Registered nurse and yoga instructor Kristin Brien, of New York City, concurs. “A yoga practice trains and strengthens the vagal nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system—rest and digest mode—and turns off the inflammatory response,” Brien says. “When we are under chronic stress, our nervous systems react as though our bodies are under constant threat, thus making some of us more susceptible to hypersensitive reactions to offending seasonal antigens like pollen and ragweed.”

Yoga practitioners across the board recommend inverted poses such as the plow, shoulder stand and downward facing dog to relieve allergy-related congestion. While yoga can be beneficial, inverted poses should be avoided by anyone with high blood pressure, glaucoma or retinal issues due to increased pressure in the blood vessels of the head, and some experts emphasize that allergy sufferers and asthmatics should avoid hot yoga and other demanding forms during flare-ups. A gentle approach goes a long way.

Helpful Links
For a simple workout plan and an anti-inflammatory food guide to help combat allergies, join Stephanie Mansour’s free 21-Day Challenge.
YouTube videos:
Yoga 101: Yoga Poses for Sinus Pressure
Yoga Poses for Sinus Congestion

Ideally, Brien recommends asanas that anyone can do, including legs up the wall, supported bridge pose, supported reclined goddess pose and child’s pose.

Warm-Up

No matter the type of exercise, warming up can play a key factor. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, stretching before activity and boosting heart rate helps to maximize exercise and its symptom-reducing effects.

Create a Healthy Space

Lessening the body’s burden by making small changes in living or workout space can also optimize the benefits of exercise. Brien, an allergy sufferer and asthmatic, recommends using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce circulating allergens and also wiping down all surfaces, including yoga mats, floors, window sills and vents. During drier, colder times of the year, Mansour recommends using a humidifier to add moisture to the air and improve breathing.

Exercise may not cure seasonal allergies, but it can lessen related symptoms, along with effecting a more balanced nervous system and better overall health.


Marlaina Donato is the author of several books and a composer.

 

Helpful Workout Tips

Before and After:

• Use a nasal saline spray beforehand.

• Change clothes and shower after outdoor exercise; wash workout clothing exposed to pollens.

Consider Wearing:

• Wraparound sunglasses to avoid allergens getting into eyes

• A breathable mask to filter allergens during outdoor activity

Avoid Exercising:

• In the morning when pollen and mold counts are highest

• When it’s warm, dry or windy outside

• On busy roads where exhaust fumes can irritate bronchial and nasal passages

• When tired, sick or under significant stress; all three states prompt the immune system to react more severely to allergens

Caution:

• Don’t exercise for at least two hours after an allergy shot to avoid significant side effects.


Photo by Kzenon/Shutterstock.com


This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

WonderSpirit Partners with LakeView Spa for Spiritual Writing Retreats

Anne Wondra of WonderSpirit Soul Sistering has partnered with LakeView Spa, at Bella Vista Suites in Lake Geneva, to add her services for local community members that want a spirit-writing wellness getaway experience.

Select Area Farmers’ Markets to Open in May

Milwaukeeans will not have to wait much longer to get fresh, locally grown spring produce such as greens and asparagus, along with honey, flowers and more!

Mushrooms for Food, Medicine and Healing the Environment

The coordinators of the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference will present Mycelium Mysteries: a Women’s Mushroom Retreat, from September 27 through 29, in Almond, Wisconsin.

Sacred Sound Yoga Offering Women’s Wellness

Rosie Rain, owner of Sacred Sound Yoga, is now offering women’s wellness in all yoga classes, which provide many exercises and meditations specifically designed for women’s health.

Try Reiki at the VegOut Health Fest

Cindy Carlson Reiki and Energy Healing will have a booth at FM 102.1’s VegOut Health Fest event, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, May 11, at the Miller High Life Theater in downtown Milwaukee.

Thrive Holistic Medicine Now Offers BioMeridian Assessment

Naturopathic doctor Mary Simon, owner of Thrive Holistic Medicine, is now fully trained in using the BioMeridian assessment as part of initial and follow-up consultations.

Ananda Healing Collective Shift s Toward Women’s Health and Healing

Ananda Healing Collective, a group of wellness practitioners dedicated to emotional, physical and spiritual therapies and has introduced several programs devoted to empowering women to live their authentic truths.

VegOut Health Fest Celebrates Healthy Lifestyles

Now in its second year, the FM 102.1 VegOut Health Fest will feature more than 50 merchants and vendors offering wellness information, products and services; healthful food; educational lectures presented by health experts; and beer, wine and cocktails.

Letter from Publisher

This season is a great time for anyone to start experiencing the benefits of meditative, or therapeutic, gardening, also known as horticultural therapy.

Gardening for Kids

Give kids a patch of dirt and a trowel, and they’ll not only have fun but can find a fresh new appetite for fruit and vegetables.

Toxic Legacy

Women in growing numbers are joining together to deal with the long-term, serious health threats posed by saline and silicone implants.

Plants Talk

Plants may not be raising an audible ruckus, but scientists are finding they communicate silently with each other through smells, hearing and underground networks.

Add your comment: