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Specific Exercises Improve Lung Function for People with Asthma

A new peer-reviewed meta-analysis found that certain workouts can potentially help people with asthma breathe a little easier.

It's often thought that physical activity can trigger asthma symptoms, like wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. However, some research suggests that specific exercises may actually improve lung function in people with asthma.

To help clarify whether exercise helps asthma symptoms and which workouts offer the most benefit, researchers from China examined 28 randomized controlled trials, which included 2,155 people with asthma.

Their peer-reviewed analysis was published on August 10 in the Annals of Medicine.

The scientists looked at the impact of five exercise types versus conventional rehabilitation on lung function. These exercise programs included:

  • Breathing training
  • Aerobic training
  • Relaxation training
  • Yoga training
  • Breathing combined with aerobic training

Specifically, they examined whether these exercises improved forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1) levels, peak expiratory flow (PEF), and forced vital capacity (FVC).

The analysis showed that all five exercise regimens resulted in better lung function than the control group.

However, further analysis found the most significant improvement in FEV1 was associated with relaxation training. Moreover, breathing combined with aerobic exercise had the most substantial positive effect on FVC levels, and yoga training had the most impact on improving PEF levels.

"Breathing training combined with aerobic training, and yoga training, appear to be particularly advantageous — offering potential avenues for effective treatment approaches," explained lead author Shuangtao Xing, an Associate Professor at the School of Physical Education at Henan Normal University in China, in a news release.

Still, the scientists note that although these insights can help healthcare providers prescribe exercise interventions for their patients, many factors must be considered. These include family history, how long the individual had asthma, and environmental factors.

"Tailoring interventions to individual physical and mental health conditions, with careful consideration of exercise intensity, frequency and duration, is important for optimizing treatment outcomes," Xing said.

The study authors say well-designed randomized controlled trials that include a larger number of participants and focus on exercise specifics like intensity and frequency are needed to pinpoint which exercise programs offer the most benefits for people with asthma.

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