Does the thought of spring make you want to sneeze? Don’t let your workouts take a hiatus due to hay fever; science suggests exercise might help relieve your symptoms.
As the winter chills subside some of us start to dread the season ahead. Spring and summer bring beautiful blooms and sunny weather, but also increased pollen counts and associated hay fever. It’s one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions, affecting around 15% of Australians, according to self-reports from the 2007–08 National Health Survey. Symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, sinus pain, and sneezing can take a toll on your wellbeing.
The good news is that a healthy lifestyle can help ease hay fever. Here are three ‘drug free’ ways to stay fit while lessening those spring sniffles:
A survey undertaken by the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit of more than 2,000 people with hay fever, found that regular exercise can improve symptoms. The survey showed that people who exercised most had the mildest symptoms compared to those who did the least amount of physical activity.
Aim to do 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week, but be smart about when and where you do it. Pollen counts tend to be at their highest first thing in the morning and early evening, so it’s best to head indoors for your workout at this time. Save your outdoor run or bootcamp session for late morning or early afternoon when pollen levels drop. Use a handy App like FreshAir or check the weather for pollen count before you head outside.
The same survey also found that stress increases the severity of hay fever. Seven out of 10 highly stressed respondents reported their symptoms as severe or debilitating, while those with less stress had milder symptoms. Exercise can be a great way to reduce stress and boost your mood by increasing the production of endorphins (the feel-good hormones).
For a mindful fitness fix head to a BodyBalance class or perform meditation. Hot Yoga can also be beneficial as the humidity warms and moistens the membranes along our nasal passage and throat, creating a natural defence line against pollen and other irritants.
There’s a common myth that dairy causes mucous, however the truth is dairy actually has significant anti-inflammatory action. It also naturally contains both carbohydrates and protein – a combination beneficial to replenishing fuel stores and muscle growth and recovery.
For an extra anti-oxidant boost prepare your meals with garlic and onion; these two foods contain quercertin, a natural anti-histamine that will help fight hay fever symptoms.