Mild exercise can greatly help asthma patients

10 October 2015

Just 30 minutes of daily exercise such as walking, biking or doing yoga can significantly reduce the symptoms of asthma, a new study has claimed.

Millions of people suffer from asthma, and many report having poor control of their symptoms. The research shows there is a simple antidote - 30 minutes of exercise a day, year-round.

Experts analysed the exercise habits of 643 participants who had been diagnosed with asthma. Those 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 with those who did no exercise.

"We're not talking about running marathons here," said Simon Bacon, the study's lead author and a professor at Concordia University in Canada.  "Just 30 minutes a day of walking, riding a bike, doing yoga - anything active, really - can result in significant reduction of asthma symptoms."

Traditionally, people with the condition have been discouraged from exercising because of a belief that it triggers shortness of breath and attacks.

Bacon said that simple precautionary measures can be taken to avoid the discomforts that can be caused by physical activity.

"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," said Bacon.

Within his sample group of 643 individuals, a whopping 245 reported doing no physical activity. Only 100 said they engaged in the optimal 30 minutes a day.

"Those numbers reflect the population in general," said Bacon, who is also director of the Centre de readaptation Jean-Jacques-Gauthier at Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal.

"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," he said.

It's something to keep in mind during winter months, when fitness levels tend to drop along with the temperature, and cold air provides another trigger for asthma symptoms.

"Our study shows that those who were able to engage in physical activity on a regular basis year-round benefit most," said Bacon.

The study was published in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research.

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