In a new peer-reviewed study published today in the journal Annals of Medicine, the researchers said that yoga and breathing control exercises, with aerobic training, are particularly vital exercises for asthmatic people seeking to enhance their lung function.
The study further emphasises the need to include proper fitness training in asthma care strategies.
The findings, according to lead author Shuangtao Xing, an Associate Professor at Henan Normal University's School of Physical Education in China, illustrate how particular exercise training may be effective in enhancing lung function in adults.
"Breathing training combined with aerobic training and yoga training appears to be particularly advantageous, offering potential avenues for effective treatment approaches," Xing said.
"Larger, well-designed randomised controlled trials are now needed to more accurately estimate the benefits of exercise training for individuals with asthma," he pointed out.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease with symptoms including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness that affects around 339 million people worldwide.
Exercise was once thought to be a risk factor for people with asthma since it was thought to provoke or worsen acute asthma attacks.
However, research demonstrating that exercise training can enhance pulmonary function and exercise capacity in adult patients has developed in recent years.
The experts are still divided on which combination of exercises will bring the most benefit to patients, and they are presently undertaking several randomised controlled trials to test the effectiveness of various rehabilitation methods.
To address this issue, the study compared the effects of several types of exercise training on lung function in individuals with asthma using a network meta-analysis, which allows for the simultaneous comparison of results from numerous treatments in a single analysis.
Researchers assessed the benefits of breathing training, aerobic training, relaxation training, yoga training, and breathing paired with aerobic training on lung function in a total of 28 random controlled trials among 2,155 people with asthma.
When compared to the typical rehabilitation control group, all five forms of exercise therapies improved lung function measurements more effectively.
Researchers found that breathing training—aerobic training, relaxation training, yoga training, and breathing mixed with aerobic exercise—all resulted in improvements in Forced Expiratory Volume in the First Second (FEV1) and Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF) levels.
They further found that aerobic training, breathing training, yoga training, and breathing mixed with aerobic training all improved FVC levels, while breathing exercises, aerobic exercise, and yoga practice all improved the FEV1/FVC ratio.
Furthermore, the researchers used a statistical technique to compare the effects of various exercise therapies.
They found that while relaxation training had a substantial impact on increasing FEV1 levels, breathing mixed with aerobic exercise had the best impact on improving FVC levels, and yoga training had the greatest impact on improving PEF levels.
"These findings should provide valuable insight for healthcare professionals prescribing exercise training for managing adult asthma patients," said Xing.
Pointing out that it is essential to consider individual factors, such as family history, duration of the condition, and environmental influences when designing exercise rehabilitation programmes, he added, "Tailoring interventions to individual physical and mental health conditions, with careful consideration of exercise intensity, frequency, and duration, is important for optimising treatment outcomes."
The authors acknowledge some limitations that may impact the broader generalisation of their findings, such as inherent variability among the included studies and variations in exercise intensity and frequency details.
They emphasised that, as most patients in the trial were under 60 years, exercise programmes may produce different results in older people.