The best way to stay fit during allergy season may be to turn that run into a jump.
Let the sniffling begin...
Fall is here, bringing with it cooler weather, shorter days and fragrant, autumn breezes. Unfortunately, for all of us allergy sufferers, those breezes tend to be chock-full of mold spores and allergens, including the granddaddy of them all: ragweed pollen.
For people with seasonal allergies, the arrival of fall signals the beginning of weeks, or even months, of discomfort that can interfere with every aspect of their daily life, including the ability to exercise. Nobody looks forward to going for a jog or a bike ride when it means constant sneezing, wheezing, and rubbing itchy, watering eyes.
Exercise can reduce allergy symptoms
Of course, the irony is that while allergies can make exercise more challenging, exercise can often make allergy symptoms less challenging.
Research shows that exercise, particularly moderate-intensity exercise, can help improve allergy symptoms. A study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy found that the allergy symptoms of people suffering from acute “allergic rhinitis” (hay fever) were reduced by more than seventy percent after thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise¹. One possible explanation for this is that the increased blood circulation and lymphatic flow produced by exercise flushes allergens from the body much faster than normal, thereby limiting their effect. Performing moderate-intensity exercise also reduces the chance of exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which is a rare, acute allergic reaction (often to foods) that is more likely to be triggered by intense exercise.
Exercise also helps you to feel better by increasing your energy levels, counteracting the draining effect of allergies themselves as well as the sedative effects of many kinds of antihistamines. A cardiovascular workout can also improve allergy-disrupted sleep patterns and reduce stress, which has been shown to aggravate allergy symptoms.
A Mini-Trampoline workout helps get the jump on allergies
Research continues to confirm that mini-trampoline exercise, or “rebounding,” dramatically improves cardiovascular fitness, bone density, balance, lymphatic circulation, and much more. For allergy sufferers, it’s the combination of these benefits, along with rebounding’s portability and convenience, that make it indispensable for staying fit in the face of allergies.
Obviously, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction while exercising is to stay away from what’s causing it. If outdoor mold and pollen counts are high, then exercising indoors solves the problem, but if indoor mold, pet dander, or dust are the villains, then it’s better to take your workout outside. Of course, this isn’t possible with some forms of exercise. For instance, carrying your treadmill back and forth from the basement to the backyard isn’t just impractical, it’s a great way to throw your back out. Mini-trampolines, on the other hand, are meant to be easily portable, and some models, like the bellicon fitness trampoline, have been designed for both indoor and outdoor use and are fully UV and weather resistant.
Fortunately, avoiding allergens by switching to a mini-trampoline workout doesn’t mean sacrificing the benefits of more typical exercises like jogging. In fact, the opposite is true. Study after study has shown that rebounding is a much better cardiovascular-boosting, fat-burning exercise than running and also more effective at increasing bone mineral density, lymphatic flow, balance, and muscular strength. So, taking your run off the pavement and onto a low-impact mini-trampoline is actually a win-win.
Combating outdoor allergies
For most allergy sufferers, it’s those nasty little critters drifting in the outside air, like pollens and mold spores that cause them problems. As we’ve said, taking your workouts indoors is the best way to avoid having a reaction, but if you’re determined to pound the pavement, here are some suggestions for keeping those allergies under control:
- Check the weather before going out. Most online weather sites offer health information that includes local pollen counts as well as outdoor and indoor mold levels. Even with low pollen counts, many people with allergies can still be affected by variable weather, changes in barometric pressure, and rain, which can exacerbate symptoms.
- Check your local air quality. Hot, humid weather can increase ozone pollution during summer months, which can produce coughing, wheezing, and chest pain for anyone exposed to it, but people with allergies and asthma are much more likely to be seriously affected.
- Talk to your doctor. If you suffer from severe or chronic allergies, you should talk with your doctor about receiving prescription medications or even Immunotherapy, which is a process that gradually builds your resistance to allergens and can reduce your symptoms for years.
- Antihistamines. Over-the-counter antihistamines can be very effective for controlling many, but not all, allergy symptoms. Brands that offer 24-hour, non-drowsy performance are particularly good at helping maintain your workout schedule. Decongestants can also help to relieve nasal and sinus congestion, so if your antihistamine alone isn’t doing this, consider adding a decongestant.
- Be prepared for cold air. Cold air itself can also be a problem even without allergens present, because it can cause your airways to spasm, making it hard to breathe. When the air is frigid, consider wearing a scarf or cold weather breathing mask over your nose and mouth, and if you have asthma, it’s a good idea to carry an inhaler with you in case of an attack.
Combating indoor allergies
Indoor allergies can be seasonal, too, and sometimes your best option is to move your indoor workout outdoors. If you plan on staying in, here are some tips for making your indoor workouts allergy-resistant:
- Don’t let it get too humid. Use a dehumidifier, especially in any area of your home that smells musty or damp, and keep the relative humidity in your home at less than 50 percent to prevent mold.
- Don’t let it get too dry. Without enough humidity in the air, your nasal passages, sinuses, and airway get dried out, which can cause respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and nosebleeds. Using a humidifier solves this problem, but be sure to clean it regularly because they are prone to developing mold.
- Use air conditioning. Keeping the windows shut and the air conditioner running when mold and pollen levels are high can help a lot, but be sure to keep the filters clean of trapped dust and pollen.
- Clean your heater’s filter and vents. Before turning on the heat for the first time in the fall, clean your heating vents, and change the filter. Bits of mold and other allergens can get trapped in the vents over the summer.
- Leave allergens outdoors. It’s possible to carry pollen indoors on your clothes and shoes so, if you’re particularly sensitive, don’t bring dirty clothes into your bedroom, keeping it allergy-friendly as possible.
- Vacuum with a filter. Use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter to trap allergens that have settled on your floor.
- Pets. Because pets tend to spend more time indoors with us during the colder months, they can increase our exposure to both outdoor allergens, which they can bring inside with them, and indoor allergens, which they may stir up. Brushing them regularly and bathing them weekly, as well as vacuuming thoroughly, can help.
Most importantly, whether you choose to exercise indoors or out, don’t let your allergies prevent you from getting regular, cardiovascular exercise. It’s the single best thing you can do for your health, fitness, and overall quality of life.
 Tongtako, Wannaporn & Klaewsongkram, Jettanong & Jaronsukwimal, Nutdanai & Buranapraditkun, Supranee & Mickleborough, Timothy & Suksom, Daroonwan. (September 2012). The effect of acute exhaustive and moderate-intensity exercise on nasal cytokine secretion and clinical symptoms in allergic rhinitis patients. Asian Pacific Journal of allergy and immunology. 30(3):185–92.