Physical activity has been shown to offer various health benefits for patients with asthma, especially in children. However, there is still limited data on the nature of the association between physical activity and asthma control in adults.
Results from a recent study published in the BMJ Open Respiratory Research, a team of researchers found that asthma patients who engaged in optimal levels of physical activity on a regular basis were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to have good control of their symptoms compared to those who didn’t exercise.
In the study entitled “Association between patterns of leisure time physical activity and asthma control in adult patients,” a team of researchers from Concordia University, the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal and several other institutions analyzed the exercise habits of 643 participants who had been diagnosed with asthma.
The workout doesn’t have to be vigorous. “We’re not talking about running marathons here,” said Simon Bacon, the study’s lead author and a professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Concordia, in a news release. “Just 30 minutes a day of walking, riding a bike, doing yoga — anything active, really — can result in significant reduction of asthma symptoms.”
Patients with asthma have been discouraged from engaging in physical exercise as it is thought to trigger shortness of breath and asthma attacks. However, Bacon explained that simple protective measures can be taken to prevent the discomforts that physical activity can cause.
“The issue of exercise-induced bronchospasm is real — but if you use your reliever medication, blue puffer, before you exercise, and then take the time to cool down afterwards, you should be okay,” he said. “Even if you have asthma, there’s no good reason not to get out there and exercise.”
That’s a note that Bacon expects to resonate. Within the study population of 643 subjects, 245 reported that they do not engage in physical exercise and only 100 reported doing a physical activity 30 minutes a day.
“Those numbers reflect the population in general,” said Bacon, who is also director of the Centre de réadaptation Jean-Jacques-Gauthier at Hopital du Sacré-Coeur. Forty percent of people don’t exercise at all, he said.
“We need to keep in mind that doing something is better than nothing, and doing more is better than less. Even the smallest amount of activity is beneficial.”
This should be considered during winter when conducting physical exercise lessens and cold air is a trigger for symptoms of asthma.
“Our study shows that those who were able to engage in physical activity on a regular basis year-round benefit most,” said Bacon. If necessary, he suggests finding an indoor place to move, whether it’s the gym, a staircase or a shopping mall.
“It’s all about being creative and finding environments where the cold doesn’t become an issue.”
Bacon is hopeful that the results of this study could be translated into a prescription for exercise. “It would be great to see physicians recommending physical activity to patients with asthma, alongside traditional pharmacological treatments,” he concluded.