Exercise Interventions Benefit Patients With Asthma, Review Shows

While it is known that the promotion of physical activity can improve asthma symptoms and quality of life—and is even recommended in asthma guidelines— such behavior change is often difficult due to lack of funding or reimbursement for pulmonary rehabilitation or for other reasons.

A recent review sought to understand the effectiveness of interventions that promote physical activity in patients with asthma and identify the behavior change techniques (BCTs) and other components used.

While it is known that the promotion of physical activity can improve asthma symptoms and quality of life—and is even recommended in asthma guidelines—such behavior change is often difficult due to lack of funding or reimbursement for pulmonary rehabilitation or for other reasons.

In this study, researchers looked at whether aerobic and strength or resistance training had helped participants with asthma.

Comprehensive searches were conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus, and The Cochrane Central Register for Clinical Trials. The search was limited to studies of adults, in the English language, and published from 1990 and onwards. The search was conducted in August 2020 and 25 studies met the inclusion criteria.

Out of the 25 studies, involving 1849 participants, 10 of them reported significant improvements in:

  • Increasing physical activity (8 out of 10 studies)
  • Decreasing time spent sedentary (2 out of 3 studies)
  • Improving quality of life (10 out of 16 studies)
  • Decreasing asthma symptoms (9 out of 11 studies)

Interventions consisted of in-person aerobic exercise and/or strength/resistance training 2 or 3 times per week for 30–60 minutes, with or possibly without an instructor. Some were individual sessions and some were in groups, or used a combination of both.

"However, we cannot say for definite that these intervention components increased effectiveness as components were similar across all interventions regardless of their effectiveness," the researchers reported.

In addition, they reported that "Due to the similarities of the BCTs used across all intervention and control groups, it was not possible to identify specific BCTs that showed promise of effectiveness."

The most commonly used BCTs were action planning, goal getting, instruction and demonstratuion on the activity, and practice and rehearsal of the activity.

No evidence was found that showed a positive effect on asthma control (6 out of 12 studies) and medication usage (2 out of 8 studies).

Future interventions should focus on maintaining behavior change, the researchers said.

In a statement, the researchers said that digital interventions could remove barriers such as travel or the impact of the pandemic.

The study, funded by the Asthma UK Centre For Applied Research, was published in the Journal of Health Psychology.

Reference

Tyson L, Hardeman W, Marquette M, Semlyen J, Stratton G, Wilson AM. A systematic review of the characteristics of interventions that promote physical activity in adults with asthma. J of Health Psychol. Published online December 29, 2022. doi:10.1177/13591053211059386