|It’s not unusual to hear doctors promoting more aerobic exercise because according to the latest official data, more than 80% of adults aren’t able to meet recommended guidelines for aerobic or strength-based activities. But a new study suggests that exercise could hold benefits even for an unexpected group: those with moderate to severe asthma.
Although adults with asthma often abstain from physical activities for fear of triggering an attack, a group of Brazilian researchers has found that aerobic exercise improves both asthma symptoms and overall quality of life for asthma sufferers.
To measure the impact of exercise on asthma, the research team recruited 58 asthma patients, all between 20 and 59, and assigned them randomly to one of two groups. One group was assigned to do a 30-minute breathing exercise twice weekly for 12 weeks, while the other group was instructed to do the breathing exercise plus a 35-minute session on an indoor treadmill.
The researchers measured the bronchial hyperresponsiveness — which indicates how quickly the airway becomes constricted and inflamed during an attack — at the beginning and end of the three-month study period. They also measured the levels of certain proteins, called cytokines, that are created when the airway becomes inflamed.
Participants were told to keep a diary recording their symptoms and how often they used inhalers, and they filled out questionnaires designed to assess quality of life.
At the end of the study, the BHR of those in the exercise group had fallen, while it remained steady for those in the group who had only done breathing exercises. Cytokine levels also decreased for the exercise group, and those participants had more symptom-free days. Of the 22 people in the exercise group who completed the trial, 15 had significantly improved quality-of-life scores at the study’s end.
Moreover, the patients with the highest inflammation levels and poorest initial symptom control seemed to benefit more than the others in the group.
The researchers cautioned that exercise shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for medical treatment, but rather as a complementary one.
“These results suggest that adding exercise as an adjunct therapy to pharmacological treatment could improve the main features of asthma,” they concluded. The full study has been published in the journal Thorax.