If you have moderate to severe asthma and are currently treating it with drugs alone, a new study may offer you additional relief. According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine in Brazil, regular aerobic exercise can be more effective in controlling symptoms than a drug regimen alone.
In the study led by Dr. Celso Carvalho, participants were randomly assigned to a three-month course of exercise on a treadmill. Those participants exhibited improvement in two areas of asthma that make breathing difficult: elevated sensitivity in the patient’s airway and inflammation. Improvements were found even among patients whose symptoms were already under control with medication.
The World Health Organization estimates that 235 million people around the world suffer from asthma, an incurable chronic disease. Asthma patients experience the sudden onset of breathlessness and wheezing. As the attacks occur, the lining of the bronchial tubes swells. The airways narrow and the flow of air into and out of the lungs is restricted.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are frequently prescribed. Taken daily, they can reduce swelling and the production of mucus in the airways, easing patients’ symptoms. Other asthma patients use drugs called bronchodilators. The long-acting form of bronchodialators offers ongoing symptom control, and the short-acting form helps stop sudden attacks. Both work by relaxing the muscle bands that encircle the airways, controlling the inflow and outflow of air into the lungs.
Carvalho and his team of researchers examined the impact of aerobic exercise on 43 asthma patients. The participants varied from 20 to 59 years. Their symptoms had been well-managed by drugs for at least a month, and they had all been monitored by their physicians for a period of at least six months.
Patients who had cardiovascular, musculoskeletal or other chronic lung conditions, former smokers and people who were already getting lots of exercise were excluded from the study.
Whether or not they were assigned to the exercise group, every study participant attended yoga breathing classes twice a week for 12 weeks. The exercise group also walked on treadmills for 35 minutes twice each week. At the end of the study, the exercise group was found to have decreased bronchial hyper-responsiveness and extreme sensitivity that results in narrowed airways. In addition, participants showed lower levels of proteins known as cytokines, which are associated with inflammation.