Aerobic exercise should be 'routine treatment' for asthma, study finds

Regular aerobic exercise 'reduces the need for inhalers' for patients with asthma and should be 'routinely added to the drug treatment' of the disease, researchers have said.

Exercise can reduce asthma symptoms (Photo: iStock)
Exercise can reduce asthma symptoms (Photo: iStock)

Some asthma patients avoid exercise for fear of triggering symptoms, but aerobic exercise reduces symptoms and improves overall quality of life for asthma patients, according to a Brazilian study.

The study, published in the Thorax journal, followed 58 adult patients with moderate to severe asthma for three months. All patients were taking medication for asthma.

Participants were randomly assigned to a control group or aerobic training group, the latter of which required them to complete two 35-minute treadmill sessions a week.

Patients in each group had their bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) checked at the beginning and end of this testing period to test the speed of airway constriction and inflammation. Their immune response was also checked.

Each participant kept a symptom diary to record their use of inhalers and any emergency admissions in addition to filling out a quality of life survey.

Health improvements

Patients in the aerobic exercise group were able to tolerate twice the level of histamine before symptoms developed as those in the non-exercise group.

Levels of cytokines responsible for inflammation fell significantly for patients in the aerobic exercise group, and their maximum oxygen intake and aerobic power also increased.

The effects were most pronounced in those who originally had higher levels of systemic inflammation and poorer symptom control.

The researchers said: ‘Our results demonstrate that aerobic training reduces BHR, systemic inflammation and exacerbations and improved quality of life in adults with moderate to severe persistent asthma.

‘In addition, we showed that patients with higher inflammation and lower asthma control obtained greater benefits. These findings suggest that adding exercise as an adjunct therapy to pharmacotherapy can improve the main features of asthma pathophysiology.’

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