Study: Exercise Interventions Reduce Asthma Symptoms

August 10, 2022

About 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, a lung condition characterized by symptoms including wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Although studies have shown that exercise can help manage asthma symptoms, various obstacles prevent people from engaging in physical activity. The Journal of Health Psychology recently published a systematic study that examined the potential benefits of several activities promotion programs for asthma sufferers' symptoms and quality of life.

"We found that overall interventions that promote physical activity had significant benefits in terms of increasing physical activity, decreasing time spent sedentary, improving quality of life
and decreasing asthma symptoms," says  Leanne Tyson, PhD, a researcher at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia, and one of the authors of this study.

Exercise is frequently suggested as a component of the treatment routine since it is linked to enhanced lung function in patients with asthma. However, some asthmatics still choose not to exercise, are not referred to programs that encourage it, or receive a referral but drop out of the program due to obstacles.

About the Study

The systematic review examined 25 earlier studies that examined physical activity promotion and health outcomes in adults with asthma aged 18 and older. Most frequently, participants in these research were instructed to work out twice or three times per week for 30 to 60 minutes, mixing cardio and strength training. The majority of exercise interventions took place in person, although some also involved the use of the phone, written materials, or cassettes. The researchers discovered that interventions promoting physical activity did help reduce asthma symptoms, reduce sedentary time, increase exercise time, and improve quality of life. Many of the studies also included behavior change techniques, such as goal setting, action planning, social support, and self-monitoring. However, neither the overall management of asthma nor the usage of medications changed.

"We found that overall interventions that promote physical activity had significant benefits in terms of increasing physical activity, decreasing time spent sedentary, improving quality of life, and decreasing asthma symptoms," Dr. Tyson says.

Physical activity rose but was not sustained during the study period in majority of the trials. Intervention researchers suggest that behavior change strategies like assessing goals and providing self-rewards that support desire to exercise should be taken into account in order to ensure long-term success.

Barriers to Exercise

Even though exercise is recognized to promote health, it's not always simple to begin or follow a routine. Low self-efficacy, limited access to exercise facilities, and the conviction that their asthma will prevent them from being active are some of the hurdles to physical activity for persons with asthma.

"Traditionally, physical activity interventions are delivered in-person within hospitals or community settings," says Dr. Tyson. "Major barriers to the uptake and completion of these interventions include travel to attend sessions, disruption to routines, inconvenient timing, and not being suitable
or accessible to those with additional health conditions."

Dr. Tyson emphasizes that in order to offer patients individualized programs at appropriate times and locations, these constraints must be taken into account when creating future physical activity interventions. The worry that exercising will make one's asthma symptoms worse is another worry. It is hoped that focused programs would help patients learn how to incorporate exercise into their life safely and successfully while reducing these types of unpleasant emotions.

Overcoming Barriers to Exercise

Understanding the obstacles that prevent exercise is essential for identifying solutions. Researchers found impediments to in-person exercise sessions were inadequate facilities and a lack of financing in the asthma and exercise study. According to Dr. Tyson, other approaches must be taken into account to improve the number of patients who can get the assistance and support they require to up their activity levels.

"Our findings highlight the potential use of digital interventions that have unique advantages over traditional in-person interventions, being more accessible and convenient for users," says Tyson. "This is more important now than ever in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant suspension of face-to-face support."

The best option might be home-based classes that don't require any travel. Online meetings, video appointments, apps, and wearables are a few examples of digital options.


Researchers urge that future treatments be evidence-based in the study's conclusion. The objective is to use approaches and strategies that drive individuals to change their behavior and encourage them to self-regulate. Frequently, having a therapist on board may help you achieve long-lasting adjustments and set goals. Dr. Aurelie Lucette, a health psychologist in Miami, helps individuals with chronic illnesses alter their lifestyles for the better and enhance their quality of life. Making SMART goals for clients, which are defined as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound goals, is the first and most crucial advice she gives.

"A vague goal would look like: 'In 2022 I am going to be more active,' while a SMART goal can sound like 'For the next 4 weeks, I will walk for 45 minutes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, right after breakfast,'" says Dr. Lucette.

According to Lucette, working alongside a friend or partner helps boost motivation and accountability. She also advises flexibility when beginning any new habit.

"Life is unpredictable and things might come up. Be prepared to adjust your goal if it is too lofty or if your schedule gets too busy and driving to the gym daily is no longer an option," says Dr. Lucette. "Be kind to yourself as you make changes and remember to speak to yourself the way you would a dear friend."

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