"Asthma doesn't need to hold anyone back"

Sports therapist, James Cato shares his experience learning to exercise with asthma, and how he helps others to discover their fitness potential.

Hitting fitness goals

“I've been a sports therapist for about eight years and I was a GP Referral Consultant* before that when I worked a lot with people with asthma. I think my own experience has helped hugely. I was diagnosed with asthma as a child and it got worse through my teens. It was triggered by exercise and hay fever, but mainly in combination – neither affected me too much on its own. My asthma is well-managed now - I can’t remember the last time I had symptoms.

"I played a lot of sports as a child - tennis, rugby, swimming and diving - none of which affected my asthma. Then I found basketball, which I felt really passionate about, but it gave me loads of problems with asthma because of the intensity. But I loved it and that made me want to work through the problems.

"Last year I ran two half marathons and didn't once need to use my reliever inhaler. Asthma doesn’t need to hold anyone back.”

James CatoHelping people to exercise with confidence 

“I always encourage people with asthma to find their limits and exercise to them regularly so that we can push back their barriers. If someone is new to exercise, the first thing we'll work on is how to deal with an asthma attack - recognising the signs, not panicking, getting breathing under control and using their inhaler correctly. Once they're confident in that, we can try more intense exercises and start pushing their barriers!

"As my clients’ confidence grows, I can see that they’re more in control of their asthma too. They’re less anxious and stressed about having an asthma attack. Often they genuinely surprise themselves with what they can do and get really into it. About 10 years ago I had a guy who wheezed just walking up the stairs into the gym when he first started, but about six months later he completed the Bognor 10k in under an hour!”

The key to staying motivated

“By far the most important thing is to find something you enjoy! You also need to make exercise part of your week, and every week, try a little bit more to build up your confidence.

"It can help to book exercise in your diary rather than just fitting it in when you have the time. Taking up a team sport is also helpful as these are normally set sessions every week and it will keep you motivated if you make a commitment to other people. If the gym or exercise classes are more your thing, find a friend that wants to do it as well.

"There'll still be times when you may have asthma symptoms, but you know you can deal with them because you have before. Just keep pushing those boundaries! There are plenty of top class athletes that have asthma, including Paula Radcliffe. I'm not saying you'll be a record breaker, but that doesn't mean you can't break some of your own records!”

*A GP Referral Consultant is someone who can safely provide exercise programmes to clients with health concerns such as asthma. 

Last updated May 2016