Expert tips for exercising during hay fever season

Exercising tips during hay fever season

Spring is finally here, but if you’re one of the 49% of people in the UK who suffers from hay fever, you’re no doubt gearing up for a season of symptoms (Allergy UK).

The most common signs of hay fever include sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, itchy eyes, and a sore throat.

While most of these symptoms won’t affect the efficiency of a workout, they can make it much more uncomfortable. A congested nose can also impact your breathing, making it difficult to maintain a regular breathing rhythm. 

Luckily, seasonal allergies don’t have to put a stop to your fitness plans. In fact, it’s possible that moderate-intensity exercise like hiking or cycling could actually improve your allergy symptoms (National Library of Medicine). You may just need to make a few changes to your usual exercise routine to avoid pesky pollen as much as possible. To help you keep up your activity levels over spring and summer, the experts from Fitness Superstore share their tips for exercising with hay fever.

Avoid pollen spikes

The type and amount of pollen in the air can affect the severity of your symptoms. Some people are only allergic to certain types of pollen which occur at different times of the year. Pollen counts can also differ by time of day, so it’s a good idea to check the Met Office’s pollen forecast each day and plan your workout around it.

exercising with hay fever

Pollen counts usually spike in the morning and early evening, so it’s often best to head out midday when pollen counts are at their lowest. For instance, you could plan a quick run in your lunch break. Switching your routine up might provide more benefits than milder hay fever symptoms too. There is also evidence to suggest that midday workouts may be more effective at reducing your risk of health issues like cardiovascular disease (Nature Communications).

Along with time of day, the weather can also impact pollen levels. Pollen counts spike in warm, sunny weather and windy conditions. Wet weather tends to ‘wash’ pollen from the air, so heading out after it’s been raining can also help you avoid pollen spikes.

Change your route

Alongside changing the time of your workout, you might also want to consider switching your route. Try to avoid areas with lots of grass, plants, or trees where the pollen count may be high. Built-up areas such as inner cities can also be full of air pollution, which can increase the severity of hay fever symptoms (National Library of Medicine). Generally speaking, coastal areas and riverbanks have the lowest pollen counts and can provide some lovely scenic spots for a run or cycle if can get to them. Otherwise, try to find paved areas away from main roads, fields, and parks.

You can also work to identify your particular triggers and avoid areas that might activate your symptoms. If your hay fever tends to be worse at a certain time of year, you can narrow down what kind of pollen you’re allergic to. Tree pollen usually occurs in early spring, from March–May, while grass pollen spikes from May–July. Weed pollen season is the longest and tends to overlap the two, generally starting in June and lasting as late as September (Met Office). So, if you’re allergic to tree pollen for example, choose a route without trees to help keep your symptoms at bay.

Wash workout clothes immediately

Pollen can stick to your clothing and hair so if you’ve been working out outside, it’s a good idea to have a shower and wash your workout clothes straight away. This not only avoids exasperating your symptoms while indoors but also stops pollen from transferring onto other areas of your home such as the sofa. For the same reason, be sure to dry your clothes inside to stop pollen clinging to the fabrics.

Exercise indoors

Of course, if the pollen count is high, one of the best ways to avoid hay fever symptoms is to stay indoors. This is a great option if your routine only allows for exercising in the morning or early evening, or if you want to get multiple workouts in during the day. A treadmill, exercise bike, or cross trainer can mimic the kind of activity you usually do outdoors, but you could also take the opportunity to try something new. Yoga, Pilates, and strength training all have a particular focus on breathing, which can be a great option if you’re struggling with hay fever symptoms like congestion. Be sure to keep your windows closed while exercising indoors too.

“With any fitness regime, consistency is key, but working out outdoors can be a challenge this time of year for those who suffer from hay fever. Altering your usual routine slightly can help you avoid pollen count spikes, but there is also a wide range of exercises you can do inside too.

“If you’re struggling with symptoms like congestion, stick to low- and medium-impact activities that can be adjusted depending on how you’re feeling, such as walking or running on a treadmill, cycling on an exercise bike, or some yoga or Pilates. And if your symptoms worsen as you’re working out, be sure to stop.

“Water-based activities like swimming, kayaking, or paddleboarding can be great options, too, as the pollen count tends to be lower around bodies of water. They also provide a great excuse to get out and enjoy a bit of seasonal sunshine while we have it!” Fitness Superstore

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