Encouraging Patients With Asthma to Exercise Easier Said Than Done, Survey Finds

March 6, 2021
AJMC Staff

Asthma and immunology specialists responding to a survey about physical activity for patients with asthma were mostly unaware of any guidelines but seemed willing to learn more about how to incorporate them into practice.

Although federal guidelines recommend patients with asthma have regular physical activity, actual exercise rates lag. Survey results presented recently at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) 2021 Annual Meeting found that most specialists were not aware of these physical recommendations, however, suggesting a possible role for them to play.

The researchers sent a 15-item survey to 979 randomly selected AAAAI members to ask about their self-reported awareness of physical activity recommendations and their current clinical practices. Respondents were asked to rate their knowledge about a variety of topics related to asthma and physical activity on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = no knowledge, 5 = very knowledgeable).

The overall survey response rate was small (9.3%); of those who did answer, the majority were allergists or immunologists with an average of 18.1 years in independent practice.

Of those who responded, 80% of participants were not aware of specific physical activity guidelines for patients with asthma, while 66% said they were aware that moderate exercise has shown improved outcomes for these patients.

The survey also revealed the 3 main barriers to more direct involvement for providers to counsel their patients with asthma about exercise: limited time to discuss, lack of knowledge about how and when to refer patients, and the need to prioritize other health behaviors.

The survey asked about existing knowledge gaps that needed to be filled in order to provide assistance to their patients. Most were unsure about how much they knew about how to refer patients to a supervised exercise program, which patients to refer, or how to counsel patients. Some respondents reported having no knowledge about any of those considerations.

Other survey results showed:

  • 97% agreed that patients with asthma should exercise, while 84% agreed when asked if patients with severe asthma should exercise
  • 90% support the idea of incorporating exercise counseling into practice, while only 69% actually did so
  • 62% indicated they were knowledgeable about when to counsel patients on exercise
  • 53% said they knew how to encourage patients to participate in exercise

Most agreed that there are 5 ways to facilitate this kind of knowledge to their patients, including patient handouts, posters in the waiting room, exercise referral forms, practitioner education, or emailed information to providers.

Reference

Nyenhuis SM, Gregory KL, Kahwash BM, Sharp LK. Asthma care provider perspectives on exercise promotion in people with asthma: An examination of knowledge, practices, barriers, and facilitators. Presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 2021 Annual Meeting, February 26-March 1, 2021; Poster 127.