Lose weight, breathe easier? Perhaps. If you have asthma, losing a few pounds might help you achieve better lung function and feel better, too. Consider the link between obesity and asthma. It’s fairly well known that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop asthma. What we don’t know for sure is why. Scientists haven’t pinpointed the exact connection between obesity and asthma. Some research suggests extra fat tissue can produce inflammatory substances that can affect the lungs, but experts caution the association between asthma and obesity seems to be very complex. However, we do know losing weight can help people better manage their asthma. Weight loss is associated with better symptom control and better lung function. Start Sweating Exercise can help you keep your weight under control, which may in turn help you better control your asthma. But don’t just dive right in without doing a little advance planning. Talk to your doctor about what’s appropriate. Your symptoms may make it a little more challenging for you to find and get established in a new exercise routine, but it’s definitely doable. Your doctor can help you sketch out an action plan for exercise, including some guidance on taking your medication appropriately and dealing with any symptoms that might occur during exercise. Find an activity that appeals to you. If you’ve ever been afraid to exercise, take comfort in the knowledge there is a type of exercise out there that will work for you. Activities that require short bursts of energy rather than long sustained periods of effort can be better for people with asthma—they’re easier to tolerate. Think: baseball or volleyball. Many people with asthma also gravitate toward swimming, which both strengthens muscles while also allowing them to breathe air that tends to be warmer and moister, which is less likely to aggravate their asthma. Walking and hiking can also be good choices for people with asthma. Start slow and build up. You might be enthusiastic about your new exercise routine, which is great! But try to ramp up gradually so you don’t experience any problems or aggravate your asthma symptoms. You don’t want to get discouraged and give up. Have medication available. You may want to keep your inhaler with a short-acting medication nearby when you exercise. Move your activity inside on a cold day. Breathing in cold air can make the bronchial tubes in your lungs contract, or narrow, making it harder for you to breathe. If the mercury is dropping, consider heading to the gym instead of exercising outside. (If you live in an area with high levels of air pollution, you’ll also want to move inside.) Overhaul Your Diet Exercise is great. But a growing number of experts suggest you also have to watch what you eat—and how much of it—to give yourself a good chance at losing weight and keeping it off. Meet with a registered dietitian. This can be a great first step, if you’re not really sure where to start. A dietitian can talk to you about your nutritional needs and your weight loss goals—and how to balance them in a way that works for you. Learn more about healthy eating. In general, a healthy diet is heavy on the whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy. Start with smaller portions and take your last bite as soon as you are no longer hungry. Commit to eating healthy. It’s all well and good to know that whole-grain bread is a better choice than white bread, but you actually have to eat the healthier foods, too! Decide that you will opt for healthier choices for your own benefit. Make Other Lifestyle Changes You’ve started eating a healthier diet, and you’re getting regular exercise, too. What else can you do to lose weight—or to keep off the pounds that you’ve already shed? Be more active in general. Experts suggest incorporating small lifestyle changes into your daily routine to burn a few extra calories. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. When you talk on the phone, stand up and walk around while you chat. If you have the opportunity to walk instead of drive, lace up your walking shoes and hit the pavement. Recruiting a walking buddy greatly improves your chances of lasting success. All those seemingly small activities add up! It’s important to remember that losing weight will not make your asthma go away. Studies show that weight loss is associated with improvements in lung function and some symptoms of asthma, but weight loss doesn’t seem to be associated with any reduction in asthmatic airway inflammation. So, you’ll still have asthma, but you may have better control over your symptoms. As a result, you may feel better and have a better quality of life.