The Benefits of Exercise in Asthma

Pull on those white knee high gym socks and put on those tennis shoes and get out there people!

Even though exercise can trigger asthma, there is increasing evidence that aerobic conditioning and regular exercise may reduce the frequency and severity of exercise-induced asthma also known as exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). Studies both in humans and mice have been done.

In mice: running on a motorized treadmill resulted in fewer inflammatory changes in their lungs and increased levels of corticosterone suggesting that exercise induced a temporary anti-inflammatory response. The mice had less chronic allergic inflammation, less remodeling (fixed changes) and less oxidative stress changes in their lungs.

In humans: With aerobic exercise for 20-30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week for 6 to 16 weeks total, this can happen:

  • Quality of Life measures trended toward improvement

  • Cardiovascular fitness improved

Unfortunately, there was little data to support that exercise improves lung function as measured on spirometry or decreases asthma severity. However, these studies were of short duration and more studies are needed to assess this further.

Exercise is important to avoid that vicious cycle of inactivity. In one study, 52% of persons with asthma reported that they were limited in their participation in activities including exercise, recreational sports, and even climbing stairs. In the same study, 40% of adults and 26% of children avoid sports or other physical activities due to EIB. With being sedentary comes de-conditioning making it even more difficult to participate. This leads to frustration and even less participation in activities. This may lead to obesity which is concerning as inhaled corticosteroid inhalers may not be as effective in controlling asthma in obese individuals.

FACT: Exercise is not detrimental to asthma control. An active lifestyle has many positive health benefits and therefore everyone should have regular exercise.

If you made that New Year’s resolution to exercise, go to this excellent article by the American Lung Association.