With the start of Spring, this is the time of year that plagues over 26 million Americans with seasonal allergies. Although the warmer weather can be great, the increase in pollen can make some people’s lives miserable. Environmental and lifestyle stress, inadequate nutrition and a weakened immune system are several factors that can leave some feeling too depressed to engage in any physical activity. However, studies show that exercise can actually help ease allergy symptoms and lessen their severity.
More Exercise, Less Discomfort
Boosting your heart rate through cardio activities such as running, walking, jumping rope and team sports like volleyball or basketball seem to offer anti-allergy benefits. Be careful not to overdo it though. The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy recommends much gentler forms of exercise and has precautions against very vigorous workouts such as Crossfit or long runs that can be counterproductive and exacerbate allergy flare-ups.
Vitamin C can also help. In fact, researchers in Bangkok found that 70% of participants that took a vitamin C supplement before running for a half an hour experienced decreased nasal congestion and sneezing. For those of you looking for the lighter workout; start with yoga, pilates, walking or light weight training, especially when congestion is a factor.
Find Your ‘Om’
To ease the symptoms of allergies this time of year, fitness instructors recommend yoga for both its physical qualities and its breathing 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 much more effective at warding off things like infection or allergies”, says Mansour, a certified yoga instructor.
When our bodies are under chronic stress, our nervous system reacts as though our bodies are under a constant threat, thus making some of us more susceptible to hypersensitive reactions to offending season antigens like pollen or ragweed. Across the nation, yoga instructors recommend inversion poses to relieve allergy-related congestion.
Create a Healthy Space
Lessening the body’s burden by making small changes to your living or workout space can also optimize the benefits of exercise. For those who suffer from severe allergies or asthma, it is suggested to use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce any circulating allergens. Also remember to wipe down all surfaces including yoga mats, floors, window sills and vents. During drier and cooler times of the year, try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air and improve your breathing.
Although exercise may not cure all season allergies, it can lessen the related symptoms, along with effecting a more balanced nervous system and better overall health. This is the time of year to put a strong focus on your health, and what better day to start than today.